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" . . . If we do not restore the Institution 

of Property we cannot escape restoring 

the Institution of Slavery; there 

is no third course." 





Published October 1912 




THE SUBJECTOFTHISBOOK : Itis written tomain- 
tain the thesis that industrial society as we know it 
will tend towards the re-establishment of slavery 
The sections into which the book will be divided 


DEFINITIONS : What wealth is and why necessary 
to man How produced The meaning of the 
words Capital, Proletariat, Property, Means of Pro- 
duction The definition of the Capitalist State 
The definition of the SERVILE STATE What it is 
and what it is not The re-establishment of status 
in the place of contract That servitude is not a 
question of degree but of kind Summary of these 

definitions page 1 1 


The Servile institution in Pagan antiquity Its fun- 
damental character A Pagan society took it for 
granted The institution disturbed by the adventof 

the Christian Church P a S e ^ 1 


DISSOLVED : The subconscious effect of the Faith 
in this matter The main elements of Pagan eco- 
nomic society The Villa The transformation of 
the agricultural slave into the Christian serf Next 
into the Christian peasant The corresponding er- 
ection throughout Christendom of the DISTRIBU- 
TIVE STATE It is nearly complete at the close of 
the Middle Ages " It was not machinery that lost 
us our freedom, it was the loss of a free mind" . page 41 


failure original in England The story of the decline 
from Distributive property to Capitalism The eco- 
nomic revolution of the sixteenth century Thecon- 
fiscation of monastic land What might have hap- 


pened had the State retained it As a fact that land 
is captured by an oligarchy England is Capitalist 
before the advent of the industrial revolution 
Therefore modern industry, proceeding from Eng- 
land, has grown in a Capitalist mould . . page 57 


nature be but a transitory phase lying between an 
earlier and a later stable state of society The two 
internal strains which render it unstable (a) The 
conflict between its social realities and its moral and 
legal basis (b) The insecurity and insufficiency to 
which it condemns free citizens The few posses- 
sors can grant or withhold livelihood from the many 
non - possessors Capitalism is so unstable that it 
dares not proceed to its own logical conclusion, but 
tends to restrict competition among owners, and in- 
security and insufficiency among non-owners . page%>\ 


The three stable social arrangements which alone 
can take the place of unstable Capitalism The 
Distributive solution, the Collectivist solution, the 
Set vile solution The reformer will not openly ad- 
vocate the Servile solution There remain only the 
Distributive and the Collectivist solution . . page 97 


OF THE CAPITALIST CRUX : A contrast between 
the reformermakingfor Distribution and the reform- 
er makingfor Socialism (or Collectivism) Thediffi- 
culties met by the first type He is working against 
the grain The second is working with the grain 
Collectivism a natural development of Capitalism 
It appeals both to Capitalist and Proletarian None 
the less we shall see that the Collectivist attempt is 


doomed to fail and to produce a thing very different 
from its object to wit, the Serville State . page 105 


types of reformers working along the line of least re- 
sistance These are the Socialist and the Practical 
Man The Socialist again isof two kinds, The Hum- 
anist andthe Statistician The Humanist wouldlike 
both to confiscate from the owners and to establish 
security and sufficiency for the non-owners He is 
allowed to do the second thingby establishing servile 
conditions He is forbidden to do thefirst The 
Statistician is quite content so long as he can run and 
organise the poor Both are canalised towards the 
Servile State and both are shepherded off their ideal 
Collectivist State Meanwhile the great mass, the 
proletariat, upon whom the reformers are at work, 
though retaining the instinct of ownership, has lost 
any experienceofitandissubjecttoprivate law much 
more than to the law of the Courts This is exact- 
ly what happened in the past during the converse 
change from Slavery to Freedom Private Law be- 
came stronger than Public at the beginning of the 
Dark Ages The owners welcomed the changes 
which maintained them in ownership and yet in- 
creased the security of their revenue To-day the 
non-owners will welcome whatever keeps them a 
wage -earning class but increases their wages and 
their security without insisting on the expropriation 

of the owners p&ge 121 

An Appendix showing that the Collectivist proposal 
to " Buy-Out " the Capitalist in lieu of expropriating him 
is vain. 


ation of the Servile State in law or proposals of law 
will fall into two sorts (a) Laws or proposals of law 


compelling the proletariat to work (b) Financial op- 
erations riveting the gripof capitalists morestrongly 
upon society As to (a), we find it ALREADY at work 
in measures such as the Insurance Act and pro- 
posals such as Compulsory Arbitration, the enforce- 
ment of Trades Union bargains and the erection of 
"Labour Colonies," etc., for the " unemployable" - 
As to thesecond, we find that so-called " Municipal" 
or "Socialist" experiments in acquiring the means 
of production have ALREADY increased and are con- 
tinually increasing the dependence of society upon 
the Capitalist . . . . . . . page 155 





and prove the following truth : 

That our free modern society in which the means 
of production are owned by a few being necessarily 
in unstable equilibrium, it is tending to reach a 
condition of stable equilibrium BY THE ESTABLISH- 
WHO DO. With this principle of compulsion applied 
against the non-owners there must also come a differ- 
ence in their status ; and in the eyes of society and 
of its positive law men will be divided into two sets : 
the first economically free and politically free, pos- 
sessed of the means of production, and securely con- 
firmed in that possession ; the second economically 
unfree and politically unfree, but at first secured by 
their very lack of freedom in certain necessaries of life 
and in a minimum of well-being beneath which they 
shall not fall. 

Society having reached such a condition would be 
released from its present internal strains and would 
have taken on a form which would be stable : that 
is, capable of being indefinitely prolonged without 
change. In it would be resolved the various factors 
of instability which increasingly disturb that form of 
society called Capitalist, and men would be satisfied 


to accept, and to continue in, such a settlement. 

To such a stable society I shall give, for reasons 
which will be described in the next section, the title 

I shall not undertake to judge whether this ap- 
proaching organisation of our modern society be 
good or evil. I shall concern myself only with show- 
ing the necessary tendency towards it which has long 
existed and the recent social provisions which show 
that it has actually begun. 

This new state will be acceptable to those who 
desire consciously or by implication the re-establish- 
ment among us of a difference of status between pos- 
sessor and non-possessor : it will be distasteful to 
those who regard such a distinction with ill favour or 
with dread. 

My business will not be to enter into the discussion 
between these two types of modern thinkers, but to 
point out to each and to both that that which the one 
favours and the other would fly is upon them. 

I shall prove my thesis in particular from the case 
of the industrial society of Great Britain, including 
that small, alien, and exceptional corner of Ireland, 
which suffers or enjoys industrial conditions to-day. 

I shall divide the matter thus : 

(1) I shall lay down certain definitions. 

(2) Next, I shall describe the institution of slavery 
and THE SERVILE STATE of which it is the basis, as 



these were in the ancient world. 
I shall then : 

(3) Sketch very briefly the process whereby that 
age-long institution of slavery was slowly dissolved 
during the Christian centuries, and whereby the re- 
sulting mediaeval system, based upon highly divided 
property in the means of production, was 

(4) wrecked in certain areas of Europe as it ap- 
proached completion, and had substituted for it, in 
practice though not in legal theory, a society based 

(5) Next, I shall show how Capitalism was of its 
nature unstable, because its social realities were in 
conflict with all existing or possible systems of law, 
and because its effects in denying sufficiency and se- 
curity were intolerable to men ; how being thus un- 
stable, it consequently presented a problem which 
demanded a solution : to wit, the establishment of 
some stable form of society whose law and social 
practice should correspond, and whose economic re- 
sults, by providing sufficiency and security, should be 
tolerable to human nature. 

(6) I shall next present the only three possible 
solutions : 

(a) Collectivism, or the placing of the means of 
production in the hands of the political officers of 
the community. 

(b) Property, or the re-establishment of a Distri- 


butive State in which the mass of citizens should 
severally own the means of production. 

(c) Slavery, or a Servile State in which those who 
do not own the means of production shall be legally 
compelled to work for those who do, and shall receive 
in exchange a security of livelihood. 

Now, seeing the distaste which the remains of our 
long Christian tradition has bred in us for directly 
advocating the third solution and boldly supporting 
the re-establishment of slavery, the first two alone are 
open to reformers: (i) a reaction towards a condition 
of well-divided property or the Distributive State; (2) 
an attempt to achieve the ideal Collectivist State. 

It can easily be shown that this second solution 
appeals most naturally and easily to a society al- 
ready Capitalist on account of the difficulty which" 
such a society has to discover the energy, the will, 
and the vision requisite for the first solution. 

(7) I shall next proceed to show how the pursuit 
of this ideal Collectivist State which is bred of Capi- 
talism leads men acting upon a Capitalist society not 
towards the Collectivist State nor anything likeit, but 
to that third utterly differentthing the Servile State. 

To thiseighth section I shalladd an appendix show- 
ing how the attempt to achieve Collectivism gradu- 
ally by public purchase is based upon an illusion. 

(8) Recognising that theoretical argument of this 
kind, though intellectually convincing, is not suffi- 



cient to the establishment of my thesis, I shall con- 
clude by giving examples from modern English leg- 
islation, which examples prove that the Servile State 
is actually upon us. 

Such is the scheme I design for this book. 



can only live by the transformation of his environ- 
ment to his own use. He must transform his en- 
vironment from a condition where it is less to a con- 
dition where it is more subservient to his needs. 

That special, conscious,and intelligent transforma- 
tion of his environment which is peculiar to the pe- 
culiar intelligence and creative faculty of man we 
call the Production of Wealth. 

Wealth is matter which has been consciously and 
intelligently transformed from a condition in which 
it is less to a condition in which it is more service- 
able to a human need. 

Without Wealth man cannot exist. The produc- 
tion of it is a necessity to him, and though it proceeds 
from the more to the less necessary, and even to those 
forms of production which we call luxuries, yet in 
any given human society there is a certain fo'ndand 
a certain amount of wealth without which human life 
cannot be lived : as, for instance, in England to-day, 
certain forms of cooked and elaborately prepared 
food, clothing, warmth, and habitation. 

Therefore, to control the production of wealth is to 
control human life itself. To refuse man the opportu- 
nity for the production of wealth is to refuse him the 
opportunity for life ; and, in general, the way in which 
the production of wealth is by law permitted is the 
only way in which the citizens can legally exist, 


Wealth can only be produced by the application 
of human energy, mental and physical, to the forces 
of nature around us, and to the material which those 
forces inform. 

This human energy so applicable to the material 
world and its forces we will call Labour. As for that 
material and those natural forces, we will call them, 
for the sake of shortness, by the narrow, but conven- 
tionally accepted, term Land. 

It would seem, therefore, that all problems con- 
nected with the production of wealth, and all discus- 
sion thereupon, involve but two principal original 
factors, to wit, Labour and Land, But it so happens 
that the conscious, artificial, and intelligent action of 
man upon nature, corresponding to his peculiar char- 
acter compared with other created beings, introduces 
a third factor of the utmost importance. 

Man proceeds to create wealth by ingenious meth- 
ods of varying and often increasing complexity, and 
aids himself by the construction of implements. These 
soon become in each new department of the produc- 
tion as truly necessary to that production as labour 
and land. Further, any process of production takes a 
certain time ; during that time the producer must be 
fed, and clothed, and housed, and the rest of it. There 
must therefore be an accumulation of wealth created 
in the past, and reserved with the object of maintain- 
ing labour during its effort to produce for the future. 



Whether it be the making of an instrument or tool, 
or the setting aside of a store of provisions, labour 
applied to land for either purpose is not producing 
wealth for immediate consumption. It is setting 
aside and reserving somewhat, and that somewhat is 
always necessary in varying proportions according 
to the simplicity or complexity of the economic 
society to the production of wealth. 

To such wealth reserved and set aside for the pur- 
poses of future production, and not for immediate 
consumption, whether it be in the form of instru- 
ments and tools, or in the form of stores for the main- 
tenance of labour during the process of production, 
we give the name of Capital. 

There are thus three factors in the production of 
all human wealth, which we may conventionally term 
Land, Capital, and Labour. 

When we talk of the Means of Production we sig- 
nify land and capital combined. Thus, when we say 
that a man is " dispossessed of the means of produc- 
tion," or cannot produce wealth save by the leave 
of another who "possesses the means of production," 
we mean that he is the master only of his labour 
and has no control, in any useful amount, over either 
capital, or land, or both combined. 

A man politically free, that is, one who enjoys 
the right before the law to exercise his energies 
when he pleases (or not at all if he does not so please), 


but not possessed by legal right of control over any 
useful amount of the means of production, we call 
proletarian, and any considerable class composed of 
such men we call a proletariat. 

Property is a term used for that arrangement in 
society whereby the control of land and of wealth 
made from land, including therefore all the means 
of production, is vested in some person or corpora- 
tion. Thus we may say of a building, including the 
land upon which it stands, that it is the " property " 
of such and such a citizen, or family, or college, or 
of the State, meaning that those who " own " such 
property are guaranteed by the laws in the right 
to use it or withhold it from use. Private property 
signifies such wealth (including the means of pro- 
duction) as may, by the arrangements of society, be % 
in the control of persons or corporations other than 
the political bodies of which these persons or cor- 
porations are in another aspect members. What dis- 
tinguishes private property is not that the posses- 
sor thereof is less than the State, or is only a part 
of the State (for were that so we should talk of muni- 
cipal property as private property), but rather that 
the owner may exercise his control over it to his own 
advantage, and not as a trustee for society, nor in the 
hierarchy of political institutions. Thus Mr Jones 
is a citizen of Manchester, but he does not own his 
private property as a citizen of Manchester, he owns 



it as Mr Jones, whereas, if the house next to his own 
be owned by the Manchester municipality, they own 
it only because they are a political body standing 
for the whole community of the town. Mr Jones 
might move to Glasgow and still own his property 
in Manchester, but the municipality of Manchester 
can only own its property in connection with the 
corporate political life of the town. 

An ideal society in which the means of production 
should be in the hands of the political officers of the 
community we call Collectivist, or more generally 

A society in which private property in land and 
capital, that is, the ownership and therefore the con- 
trol of the means of production, is confined to some 
number of free citizens not large enough to determine 
the social mass of the State, while the rest have not 
such property and are therefore proletarian, we call 
Capitalist ; and the method by which wealth is pro- 
duced in such a society can only be the application 
of labour, the determining mass of which must neces- 
sarily be proletarian, to land and capital, in such 
fashion that, of the total wealth produced, the Prole- 
tariat which labours shall only receive a portion. 

The two marks, then, defining the Capitalist State 

* Save in this special sense of " Collectivist," the word " So- 
cialist " has either no clear meaning, or is used synonymously 
with other older and better-known words. 



are: (i) That the citizens thereof are politically free: 
i.e. can use or withhold at will their possessions or 
their labour, but are also (2) divided into capitalist 
and proletarian in such proportions that the State 
as a whole is not characterised by the institution of 
ownership among free citizens, but by the restriction 
of ownership to a section markedly less than the 
whole, or even to a small minority. Such a Capitalist 
State is essentially divided into two classes of free 
citizens, the one capitalist or owning, the other pro- 
pertyless or proletarian. 

My last definition concerns the Servile State it- 
self, and since the idea is both somewhat novel and 
also the subject of this book, I will not only establish 
but expand its definition. 

The definition of the Servile State is as follows: - 

" That arrangement of society in which so consider- 
able a number of the families and individuals are con- 
strained by positive law to labour for the advantage of 
other families and individuals as to stamp the whole 
community with the mark of such labour we call THE 

Note first certain negative limitations in the above 
which must be clearly seized if we are not to lose 
clear thinking in a fog of metaphor and rhetoric. 

That society is not servile in which men are in- 
telligently constrained to labour by enthusiasm, by 
a religious tenet, or indirectly from fear of destitu- 



tion, or directly from love of gain, or from the com- 
mon sense which teaches them that by their labour 
they may increase their well-being. 

A clear boundary exists between the servile and 
the non-servile condition of labour, and the condi- 
tions upon either side of that boundary utterly differ 
one from another, Where there is compulsion ap- 
plicable by positive law to men of a certain status,ar\d 
such compulsion enforced in the last resort by the 
powers at the disposal of the State, there is the in- 
stitution of Slavery ; and if that institution be suf- 
ficiently expanded the whole State may be said to 
repose upon a servile basis, and is a Servile State. 
i Where such formal,legal status is absent the condi- 
tions are not servile; and the difference bet ween servi- 
tude and freedom, appreciable in a thousand details 
of actual life, is most glaring in this : that the free 
man can refuse his labour and use that refusal as an 
instrument wherewith to bargain ; while the slave 
has no such instrument or power to bargain at all, 
but is dependent for his well-being upon the custom 
of society, backed by the regulation of such of its 
laws as may protect and guarantee the slave. 

Next, let it be observed that the State is not ser- 
vile because the mere institution of slavery is to be 
discovered somewhere within its confines. The State 
is only servile when so considerable a body of forced 
labour is affected by the compulsion of positive law 
17 2 


as to give a character to the whole community. 

Similarly, that State is not servile in which all 
citizens are liable to submit their energies to the com- 
pulsion of positive law, and must labour at the dis- 
cretion of State officials. By loose metaphor and 
for rhetorical purposes men who dislike Collectivism 
(for instance) or the discipline of a regiment will talk 
of the " servile " conditions of such organisations. 
But for the purposes of strict definition and clear 
thinking it is essential to remember that a servile con- 
dition only exists by contrast with a free condition. 
The servile condition is present in society only when 
there is also present the free citizen for whose bene- 
fit the slave works under the compulsion of positive 

Again, it should be noted that this word " servile " 
in no way connotes the worst, nor even necessarily 
a bad, arrangement of society, This point is so clear 
that it should hardly delay us ; but a confusion be- 
tween the rhetorical and the precise use of the word 
servile I have discovered to embarrass public dis- 
cussion of the matter so much that I must once more 
emphasise what should be self-evident. 

The discussion as to whether the institution of 
slavery be a good or a bad one, or be relatively better 
or worse than other alternative institutions, has noth- 
ing whatever to do with the exact definition of that 
institution. Thus Monarchy consists in throwing the 



responsibility for the direction of society upon an 
individual. One can imagine some Roman of the 
first century praising the new Imperial power, but 
through a muddle-headed tradition against " kings " 
swearing that he would never tolerate a " monarchy." 
Such a fellow would have been a very futile critic of 
public affairs under Trajan, but no more futile than 
a man who swears that nothing shall make him a 
" slave," though well prepared to accept laws that 
compel him to labour without his consent, under the 
forceof public law,and upon terms dictated by others. 

Many would argue that a man so compelled to 
labour, guaranteed against insecurity and against in- 
sufficiency of food, housing and clothing, promised 
subsistence for his old age, and a similar set of ad- 
vantages for his posterity, would be a great deal better 
off than a free man lacking all these things. But the 
argument does not affect the definition attaching to 
the word servile. A devout Christian of blameless 
life drifting upon an ice-flow in the Arctic night, 
without food or any prospect of succour, is not so 
comfortablycircumstanced as the Khedive of Egypt; 
but it would be folly in establishing the definition of 
the words "Christian" and " Mahommedan" to bring 
this contrast into account. 

We must then, throughout this inquiry, keep strict- 
ly to the economic aspect of the case. Only when 
that is established and when the modern tendency 


to the re-establishment of slavery is clear, are we free 
to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the 
revolution through which^we are passing. 

It must further be grasped that the essential mark 
of the Servile Institution does not depend upon the 
ownership of the slave by a particular master. That 
the institution of slavery tends to that form under the 
various forces composing human nature and human 
society is probable enough. That if or when slavery 
were re-established in England a particular man 
would in time be found the slave not of Capitalism 
in general but of, say, the Shell Oil Trust in partic- 
ular, is a very likely development ; and we know that 
in societies where the institution was of immemorial 
antiquity such direct possession of the slave by the 
free man or corporation of free men had come to be 
the rule. But my point is that such a mark is not 
essential to the character of slavery. As an initial 
phase in the institution of slavery, or even as a per- 
manent phase marking society for an indefinite time, 
it is perfectly easy to conceive of a whole class ren- 
dered servile by positive law, and compelled by such 
law to labour for the advantage of another non-ser- 
vile free class, without any direct act of possession 
permitted to one man over the person of another. 

The final contrast thus established between slave 
and free might be maintained by the State guaran- 
teeing to the un-free, security in their subsistence, to 



the free, security in their property and profits, rent 
and interest. What would mark the slave in such a 
society would be his belonging to that set or status 
which was compelled by no matter what definition 
to labour, and was thus cut off from the other set or 
status not compelled to labour, but free to labour or 
not as it willed. 

Again, the Servile State would certainly exist even 
though a man, being only compelled to labour dur- 
ing a portion of his time, were free to bargain and 
even to accumulate in his " free " time. The old law- 
yers used to distinguish between a serf " in gross " 
and a serf " regardant." A serf " in gross " was one 
who was a serf at all times and places, and not in re- 
spect to a particular lord. A serf " regardant " was a 
serf only in his bondage to serve a particular lord. 
He was free as against other men. And one might 
perfectly well have slaves who were only slaves " re- 
gardant " to a particular type of employment during 
particular hours. But they would be slaves none the 
less, and if their hours were many and their class 
numerous, the State which they supported would be 
a Servile State. 

Lastly, let it be remembered that the servile con- 
dition remains as truly an institution of the State 
when it attaches permanently and irrevocably at any 
one time to a particular set of human beings as when 
it attaches to a particular class throughout their lives. 


Thus the laws of Paganism permitted the slave to 
be enfranchised by his master : it further permitted 
children or prisoners to be sold into slavery. The 
Servile Institution, though perpetually changing in 
the elements of its composition, was still an unchang- 
ing factor in the State. Similarly, though the State 
should only subject to slavery those whohad less than 
a certain income, while leaving men free by inherit- 
ance or otherwise to pass out of, and by loss to pass 
into, the slave class, that slave class, though fluctuat- 
ing as to its composition, would still permanently 

Thus, if the modern industrial State shall make a 
law by which servile conditions shall not attach to 
those capable of earning more than a certain sum by- 
their own labour, but shall attach to those who earn 
less than this sum ; or if the modern industrial State 
defines manual labour in a particular fashion, renders 
it compulsory during a fixed time for those who un- 
dertake it, but leaves them free to turn later to other 
occupations if they choose, undoubtedly such dis- 
tinctions, though they attach to conditions and not 
to individuals, establish the Servile Institution. 

Some considerable number must be manual work- 
ers by definition, and while they were so defined would 
be slaves. Here again the composition of the Servile 
class would fluctuate, but the class would be perma- 
nent and large enough to stamp all society. I need 



not insist upon the practical effect : that such a class, 
once established, tends to be fixed in the great major- 
ity of those which make it up, and that the individ- 
uals entering or leaving it tend to become few com- 
pared to the whole mass. 

There is one last point to be considered in this de- 

It is this : 

Since, in the nature of things, a free society must 
enforce a contract (a free society consisting in noth- 
ing else but the enforcement of free contracts), how 
far can that be called a Servile condition which is the 
result of contract nominally or really free ? In other 
words, is not a contract to labour, however freely en- 
tered into, servile of its nature when enforced by the 
State ? 

For instance, I have no food or clothing, nor do I 
possess the means of production whereby I can pro- 
duce any wealth in exchange for such. I am so cir- 
cumstanced that an owner of the Means of Produc- 
tion will not allow me access to those Means unless 
I sign a contract to serve him for a week at a wage 
of bare subsistence. Does the State in enforcing that 
contract make me for that week a slave ? 

Obviously not. For the institution of Slavery pre- 
supposes a certain attitude of mind in the free man 
and in the slave, a habit of living in either, and the 
stamp of both those habits upon society. No such 


effects are produced by a contract enforceable by the 
length of one week. The duration of human life is 
such, and the prospect of posterity, that the fulfilling 
of such a contract in no way wounds the senses of 
liberty and of choice. 

What of a month, a year, ten years, a lifetime? Sup- 
pose an extreme case, and a destitute man to sign a 
contract binding him and all his children who were 
minors to work for a bare subsistence until his own 
death, or the attainment of majority of the children, 
whichever event might happen latest ; would the 
State in forcing that contract be making the man a 
slave ? 

As undoubtedly as it would not be making him a 
slave in the first case, it would be making him a slave 
in the second. 

One can only say to ancient sophistical difficulties 
of this kind, that the sense of men establishes for itself 
the true limits of any object, as of freedom. What 
freedom is, or is not, in so far as mere measure of time 
is concerned (though of course much else than time 
enters in), human habit determines; but the enforcing 
of a contract of service certainly or probably leaving 
a choice after its expiration is consonant with free- 
dom. The enforcement of a contract probably bind- 
ing one's whole life is not consonant with freedom. 
One binding to service a man's natural heirs is in- 
tolerable to freedom. 



Consider another converse point. A man binds 
himself to work for life and his children after him so 
far as the law may permit him to bind them in a 
particular society, but that not for a bare subsistence, 
but for so large a wage that he will be wealthy in a 
few years,and his posterity,when the contractis com- 
pleted, wealthier still. Does the State in forcing such 
a contract make the fortunate employee a slave ? 
No. For it is in the essence of slavery that subsist- 
ence or little more than subsistence should be guar- 
anteed to the slave. Slavery exists in order that the 
Free should benefit by its existence, and connotes a 
condition in which the men subjected to it may de- 
mand secure existence, but little more. 

If anyone were to draw an exact line, and to say 
that a life-contract enforceable by law was slavery 
at so many shillings a week, but ceased to be slavery 
after that margin, his effort would be folly. None the 
less, there is a standard of subsistence in any one 
society, the guarantee of which (or little more) under 
an obligation to labour by compulsion is slavery, 
while the guarantee of very much more is not slavery. 

This verbal jugglery might be continued. It is a 
type of verbal difficulty apparent in every inquiry 
open to the professional disputant, but of no effect 
upon the mind of the honest inquirer whose business 
is not dialectic but truth. 

It is always possible by establishing a cross-sec - 


tion in a set of definitions to pose the unanswerable 
difficulty of degree, but that will never affect the 
realities of discussion. We know, for instance, what 
is meant by torture when it exists in a code of laws, 
and when it is forbidden. No imaginary difficulties 
of degree between pulling a man's hair and scalping 
him, between warming him and burning him alive, 
will disturb a reformer whose business it is to ex- 
punge torture from some penal code. 

In the same way we know what is and what is not 
compulsory labour, what is and what is not the Ser- 
vile Condition. Its test is, I repeat, the withdrawal 
from a man of his free choice to labour or not to 
labour, here or there, for such and such an object ; 
and the compelling of him by positive law to labour 
for the advantage of others who do not fall under the 
same compulsion. 

Where you have that, you have slavery : with all 
the manifold, spiritual, and political results of that 
ancient institution. 

Where you have slavery affecting a class of such 
considerable size as to mark and determine the char- 
acter of the State, there you have the Servile State. 

To sum up, then : The SERVILE STATE is that 

in which we find so considerable a body of families 

and individuals distinguished from free citizens by 

, the mark of compulsory labour as to stamp a general 



character upon society, and all the chief characters, 
good or evil, attaching to the institution of slavery 
will be found permeating such a State, whether the 
slaves be directly and personally attached to their 
masters, only indirectly attached through the medi- 
um of the State, or attached in a third manner 
through their subservience to corporations or to par- 
ticular industries. The slave so compelled to labour 
will be one dispossessed of the means of production, 
and compelled by law to labour for the advantage 
of all or any who are possessed thereof. And the 
distinguishing mark of the slave proceeds from the 
special action upon him of a positive law which first 
separates one body of men, the less-free, from an- 
other, the more- free, in the function of contract with- 
in the general body of the community. 

Now, from a purely Servile conception of produc- 
tion and of the arrangement of society we Europeans 
sprang. The Immemorial past of Europe is a Servile 
past. During some centuries which theChurchraised, 
permeated, and constructed, Europe was grad ually re- 
leased or divorced from this immemorial and funda- 
mental conception of slavery ; to that conception, to 
that institution, our Industrial or Capitalist society 
is now upon its return. We are re-establishing the 

Before proceeding to the proof of this, I shall, in 


the next few pages, digress to sketch very briefly the 
process whereby the old Pagan slavery was trans- 
formed into a free society some centuries ago. I shall 
then outline the further process whereby the new 
non-servile society was wrecked at the Reformation 
in certain areas of Europe, and particularly in Eng- 
land. There was gradually produced in its stead the 
transitory phase of society (now nearing its end) 
called generally Capitalism or the Capitalist State. 

Such a digression, being purely historical, is not 
logically necessary to a consideration of our subject, 
but it is of great value to the reader, because the 
knowledge of how, in reality and in the concrete, 
things have moved better enables us to understand 
the logical process whereby they tend towards a par- 
ticular goal in the future. 

One could prove the tendency towards the Servile 
State in England to-day to a man who knew nothing 
of the past of Europe ; but that tendency will seem 
to him far more reasonably probable, far more a 
matter of experience and less a matter of mere deduc- 
tion, when he knows what our society once was, and 
how it changed into what we know to-day. 






European past we make our research, we find, from 
two thousand years ago upwards, one fundamental 
institution whereupon the whole of society reposes; 
that fundamental institution is Slavery. 

There is here no distinction between the highly 
civilised City-State of the Mediterranean, with its 
letters, its plastic art, and its code of laws, with all 
that makes a civilisation and this stretching back far 
beyond any surviving record, there is here no dis- 
tinction between that civilised body and the Northern 
and Western societies of the Celtic tribes, or of the 
little known hordes that wandered in the Germanics, 
^//indifferently reposed upon slavery. It was a fun- 
damental conception of society. It was everywhere 
present, nowhere disputed. 

There is a distinction (or would appear to be) be- 
tween Europeans and Asiatics in this matter. The 
religion and morals of the one so differed in their 
very origin from those of the other that every social 
institution was touched by the contrast and Slavery 
among the rest. 

But with that we need not concern ourselves. My 
point is that our European ancestry, those men from 
whom we are descended and whose blood runs with 
little admixture in our veins, took slavery for granted, 
made of it the economic pivot upon which the pro- 


duction of wealth should turn, and never doubted 
but that it was normal to all human society. 

It is a matter of capital importance to seize this. 

An arrangement of such a sort would not have en- 
dured without intermission(and indeed withoutques- 
tion) for many centuries, nor have been found emerg- 
ing fully grown from that vast space of unrecorded 
time during which barbarism and civilisation flour- 
ished side by sidein Europe,had there not been some- 
thing in it, good or evil, native to our blood. 

There was no question in those ancient societies 
from which we spring of making subject races into 
slaves by the might of conquering races. All that is the 
guess-work of the universities. Not only is there no 
proof of it, rather all the existing proof is the other 
way. The Greek had a Greek slave, the Latin a Latin 
slave, the German a German slave, the Celt a Celtic 
slave. The theory that "superior races" invaded a 
land, either drove out the original inhabitants or re- 
duced them to slavery, is one which has no argument 
either from our present knowledge of man's mind or 
from recorded evidence. Indeed, the most striking 
feature of that Servile Basis upon which Paganism 
reposed was the human equality recognised between 
master and slave. The master might kill the slave, 
but both were of one race and each was human to the 

This spiritual value was not, as a further pernicious 



piece of guess-work would dream, a " growth " or a 
" progress." The doctrine of human equality was in- 
herent in the very stuff of antiquity, as it is inherent 
in those societies which have not lost tradition. 

We may presume that the barbarian of the North 
would grasp the great truth with less facility than the 
civilised man of the Mediterranean, because barbar- 
ism everywhere shows a retrogression in intellectual 
power; but the proof that the Servile Institution was 
a social arrangement rather than a distinction of type 
is patent fromthecoincidenceeverywhereof Emanci- 
pation with Slavery. Pagan Europe not only thought 
the existence of Slaves a natural necessity to society, 
but equally thought that upon giving a Slave his 
freedom the enfranchised man would naturally step, 
though perhaps after the interval of some lineage, 
into the ranks of free society. Great poets and great 
artists, statesmen and soldiers were little troubled by 
the memory of a servile ancestry. 

On the other hand, there was a perpetual recruit- 
ment of the Servile Institutionjust as there wasa per- 
petual emancipation from it, proceeding year after 
year ; and the natural or normal method of recruit- 
ment is most clearly apparent to us in the simple and 
barbaric societies which the observation of contem- 
porary civilised Pagans enables us to judge. 

It was poverty that made the slave. 

Prisoners of war taken in set combat afforded one 
33 3 


mode of recruitment, and there was also the raiding 
of men by pirates in the outer lands and the selling 
of them in the slave markets of the South. But at 
once the cause of the recruitment and the permanent 
support of theinstitution of slavery was the indigence 
of the man who sold himself into slavery, or was born 
into it ; for it was a rule of Pagan Slavery that the 
slave bred theslave,and that even if one of the parents 
were free the offspring was a slave. 

The society of antiquity, therefore, was normally 
divided (as must at last be the society of any servile 
state) into clearly marked sections: there was uponthe 
one hand the citizen whohad avoice in the conductof 
the State, who would often labour but labour of his 
own free will and who was normally possessed of 
property ; upon the other hand, there was a mass dis- 
possessed of the means of production and compelled 
by positive law to labour at command. 

Itistruethat in the further developments of society 
the accumulation of private savings by a slave was 
tolerated and that slaves so favoured did sometimes 
purchase their freedom. 

It is further true that in the confusion of the last 
generations of Paganism there arose in some of the 
great cities a considerable class of men who, though 
free, were dispossessed of the means of production. 
But these last never existed in a sufficient propor- 
tion to stamp the whole State of society with a char- 



acter drawn from their proletarian circumstance. To 
the end the Pagan world remained a world of free 
proprietors possessed, in various degrees, of the land 
and of the capital whereby wealth may be produced, 
and applying to that land and capital for the pur- 
pose of producing wealth, compulsory labour. 

Certain features in that original Servile State from 
which we all spring should be carefully noted by way 
of conclusion. 

First, though all nowadays contrast slavery with 
freedom to the advantage of the latter, yet men then 
accepted slavery freely as an alternative to indigence. 

Secondly (and this is most important for our judg- 
ment of the Servile Institution as a whole, and of the 
chances of its return), in all those centuries we find 
no organised effort, nor (what is still more significant) 
do we find any complaint of conscience against the in- 
stitution which condemned the bulk of human beings 
to forced labour. 

Slaves may be found in the literary exercises of the 
time bewailing their lot and joking about it ; some 
philosophers will complain that an ideal societyshould 
contain no slaves ; others will excuse the establish- 
ment of slavery upon this plea or that, while granting 
that it offends the dignity of man. The greater part 
will argue of the State that it is necessarily Servile. 
But no one, slave or free, dreams of abolishing or 
even of changing the thing. You have no martyrs for 


the case of " freedom " as against " slavery." The so- 
called Servile wars are the resistance on the part of 
escaped slaves to any attempt at recapture, but they 
are not accompanied by an accepted affirmation that 
servitudeisan intolerable thing; noristhatnotestruck 
at all from the unknown beginnings to the Catho- 
lic endings of the Pagan world. Slavery is irksome, 
undignified, woeful ; but it is, to them, of the nature 
of things. 

You may say, to be brief, that this arrangement 
of society was the very air which Pagan Antiquity 

Its great works, its leisure and its domestic life, 
its humour, its reserves of power, all depend upon the 
fact that its society was that of the Servile State. 

Men were happy in that arrangement, or, at least, 
as happy as men ever are. 

The attempt to escape by a personal effort, whether 
of thrift, of adventure, or of flattery to a master, from 
the Servile condition had never even so much of driv- 
ing power behind it as the attempt manyshowto-day 
to escape from the rank of wage-earners to those of 
employers. Servitude did not seem a hell into which 
a man would rather die than sink, or out of which 
at any sacrifice whatsoever a man would raise him- 
self. It was a condition accepted by those who suf- 
fered it as much as by those who enjoyed it, and a per- 
fectly necessary part of all that men did and thought. 



You find no barbarian from some free place aston- 
ished at the institution of Slavery ; you find no Slave 
pointing to a society in which Slavery was unknown 
as towards a happier land. To our ancestors not only 
for those few centuries during which we have record 
of their actions, but apparently during an illimitable 
past, the division of society into those who must work 
under compulsion and those who would benefit by 
their labour was the very plan of the State apart 
from which they could hardly think of society as 
existing at all. 

Let all this be clearly grasped. It is fundamental 
to an understanding of the problem before us. Slav- 
ery is no novel experience in the history of Europe; 
nor is one suffering an odd dream when one talks of 
Slavery as acceptable to European men. Slavery 
was of the very stuff of Europe for thousands upon 
thousands of years, until Europe engaged upon that 
considerable moral experiment called The Faith, 
which many believe to be now accomplished and dis- 
carded, and in the failure of which it would seem that 
the old and primary institution of Slavery must return. 

For there came upon us Europeans after all those 
centuries, and centuriesof a settled social order which 
was erected upon Slavery as upon a sure foundation, 
the experiment called the Christian Church. 

Among the by-products of this experiment, very 
slowly emerging from the old Pagan world, and not 


long completed before Christendom itself suffered 
a shipwreck, was the exceedingly gradual transfor- 
mation of the Servile State into something other : 
a society of owners. And how that something other 
did proceed from the Pagan Servile State I will next 





disappeared among Christian men, though very leng- 
thy in its development (it covered close upon a thou- 
sand years), and though exceedingly complicated in 
its detail, may be easily and briefly grasped in its main 

Let it first be clearly understood that the vast re- 
volution through which the European mind passed 
bet ween the first and the fourth centuries (that revolu- 
tion which is often termed the Conversion of the World 
to Christianity, but which should for purposes of his- 
torical accuracy be called the Growth of the Church) 
included no attack upon the Servile Institution. 

No dogma of the Church pronounced Slavery to 
be immoral, or the sale and purchase of men to be a 
sin, or the imposition of compulsory labour upon a 
Christian to be a contravention of any human right. 

The emancipation of Slaves was indeed regarded 
asagood work by the Faithful : but so was it regarded 
by the Pagan. It was, on the face of it, a service ren- 
dered to one's fellowmen. The sale of Christians to 
Pagan masters was abhorrent to the later empire of 
the Barbarian Invasions, not because slavery in itself 
was condemned, but because it was a sort of treason 
to civilisation to force men away from Civilisation to 
Barbarism. In general you will discover no pronounce- 
4 1 


ment against slavery as an institution, nor any moral 
definition attacking it, throughout all those early 
Christian centuries during which it none the less 
effectively disappears. 

The form of its disappearance is well worth noting. 
It begins with the establishment as the fundamental 
unit of production in Western Europe of those great 
landed estates, commonly lying in thehandsof asingle 
proprietor, and generally known as VlLL/E. 

There were, of course, many other forms of human 
agglomeration: small peasant farms owned in absol- 
ute proprietorship by their petty masters ; groups of 
free men associated in what was called a Vicus\ manu- 
factories in which groups of slaves were industrially 
organised to the profit of their master; and, govern-, 
ing the regions around them, the scheme of Roman 

But of all these the Fz7/flwas the dominating type ; 
and as society passed from the high civilisation of 
the first four centuries into the simplicity of the Dark 
Ages, the Villa, the unit of agricultural production, 
became more and more the model of all society. 

Now the Villa began as a considerable extent of 
land,containing,likeamodern English estate, pasture, 
arable, water, wood and heath, or waste land. It was 
owned byadomznusortordmaibsolute proprietorship, 
to sell, or leave by will, to do with it whatsoever he 
chose. It was cultivated for him by Slaves to whom 



he owed nothing in return, and whom it was simply 
his interest to keep alive and to continue breeding in 
order that they might perpetuate his wealth. 

I concentrate particularly upon these Slaves, the 
great majority of the human beings inhabiting the 
land, because, although there arose in the Dark Ages, 
when the Roman Empire was passing intothe society 
of the Middle Ages, other social elements within the 
Villa the Freed men who owed the lord a modified 
service, and even occasionally independent citizens 
present through a contract terminable and freely en- 
tered into yet it is the Slave who is the mark of all 
that society. 

At its origin, then, the Roman Villa was a piece of 
absolute property, the production of wealth upon 
which was due to the application of slave labour to 
the natural resources of the place ; and that slave 
labour was as much the property of the lord as was 
the land itself. 

The first modification which this arrangement 
showed in the new society which accompanied the 
growth andestablishment of theChurchin the Roman 
world, was a sort of customary rule which modified 
the old arbitrary position of the Slave. 

The Slave was still a Slave, but it was both more 
convenient in thedecay of communicationsandpublic 
power, and more consonant with the social spirit of 
the time to make sure of that Slave's produce by ask- 


ing him for no more than certain customary dues. 
The Slave and his descendants became more or less 
rooted to one spot. Some were still bought and sold, 
but in decreasing numbers. As the generations pass- 
ed a larger and a larger proportion lived where and 
as their fathers had lived, and the produce which 
they raised was fixed more and more at a certain a- 
mount, which the lord was content to receive and ask 
no more. The arrangement was made workable by 
leaving to the Slave all the remaining produce of his 
own labour. There was asort of implied bargain here, 
in the absence of public powers and in the decline of 
the old highly centralised and vigorous system which 
could always guarantee to the master the full product 
of the Slave's effort. The bargain implied was, that 
if the Slave Community of the Villa would produce 
for the benefit of its Lord not less than a certain cus- 
tomary amount of goods from the soil of the Villa, 
the Lord could count on their always exercising that 
effort by leaving to them all the surplus, which they 
could increase, if they willed, indefinitely. 

By the ninth century, when this process had been 
gradually at work for a matter of some three hundred 
years, one fixed form of productive unit began to be 
apparent throughout Western Christendom. 

The old absolutely owned estate had come to be 
divided into three portions. One of these was pasture 
and arable land, reserved privately to the lord, and 



called domain : that is, lord's land. Another was in 
the occupation, and already almost in the possession 
(practically, thoughnotlegally),of those whohad once 
been Slaves. A third was common land over which 
both the Lord and the Slave exercised each their var- 
ious rights, which rights were minutely remembered 
and held sacred by custom. For instance, in a certain 
village, if there was beech pasture for three hundred 
swine, the lord might put in but fifty : two hundred 
and fifty were the rights of the " village." 

Upon the first of these portions, Domain, wealth 
was produced by the obedience of the Slave for cer- 
tain fixed hours of labour. He must come so many 
days a week, or upon such and such occasions (all 
fixed and customary), to till the land of the Domain 
for his Lord, and all the produce of this must be hand- 
ed over to the Lord though, of course, a daily wage 
in kind was allowed, for the labourer must live. 

Upon the second portion, " Land in Villenage," 
which was nearly always the most of the arable and 
pasture land of the Villa, the Slaves worked by rules 
and customs which they gradually came to elaborate 
for themselves. They worked under an officer of their 
own, sometimes nominated, sometimes elected: near- 
ly always, in practice, a man suitable to them and more 
or less of their choice ; though this co-operative work 
upon the old Slave-ground was controlled by the 
general customs of the village, common to lord and 


slave alike, and the principal officer over both kinds 
of land was the Lord's Steward. 

Of the wealth so produced by the Slaves, a certain 
fixed portion (estimated originally in kind) was pay- 
able to the Lord's Bailiff, and became the property 
of the Lord. 

Finally, on the third division of the land, the 
"Waste," the "Wood," the "Heath," and certain com- 
mon pastures, wealth was produced as elsewhere by 
the labour of those who had once been the Slaves, 
but divided in customary proportions between them 
and their master. Thus, such and such a water mea- 
dow would have grazing for so many oxen ; the num- 
ber was rigidly defined, and of that number so many 
would be the Lord's and so many the Villagers'. > 

During the eighth, ninth and tenth centuries this 
system crystallised and became so natural in men's 
eyes that the original servile character of the working 
folk upon the Villa was forgotten. 

The documents of the time are rare. These three 
centuries are the crucible of Europe, and record is 
drowned and burnt in them. Our study of their so- 
cial conditions, especially in the latter part, are mat- 
ter rather of inference than of direct evidence. But 
the sale and purchase of men, already exceptional at 
the beginning of this almost unknown be- 
fore the end of it. Apart from domestic slaves with- 
in the household, slavery in the old sense which Pagan 



antiquity gave that institution had been transformed 
out of all knowledge, and when, with the eleventh 
century, the true Middle Ages begin to spring from 
the soil of the Dark Ages, and a new civilisation to 
arise, though the old word servus(ihe Latin for a slave) 
is still used for the man who works the soil, his status 
in the now increasing number of documents which we 
can consult is wholly changed ; we can certainly no 
longer translate the word by the English word slave; 
we are compelled to translate it by a new word with 
very different connotations : the word serf. 

The Serf of the early Middle Ages, of the eleventh 
and early twelfth centuries, of the Crusades and 
the Norman Conquest, is already nearly a peasant. 
He is indeed bound in legal theory to the soil upon 
which he was born. In social practice, all that is re- 
quired of him is that his family should till its quota 
of servile land, and that the dues to the lord shall 
not fail from absence of labour. That duty fulfilled, 
it is easy and common for members of the serf-class 
to enter the professions and the Church, or to go 
wild ; to become men practically free in the grow- 
ing industries of the towns. With every passing 
generation the ancient servile conception of the lab- 
ourer's status grows more and more dim, and the 
Courts and the practice of society treat him more and 
more as a man strictly bound to certain dues and to 
certain periodical labour within his industrial unit, 


but in all other respects free. 

As the civilisation of the Middle Ages develops, as 
wealth increases and the arts progressively flourish, 
this character of freedom becomes more marked. In 
spite of attempts in time of scarcity (as after a plague) 
to insist upon the old rights to compulsory labour, the 
habitof commutingthese rights for money-payments 
and dues has grown too strong to be resisted. 

If at the end of the fourteenth century, let us say, 
or at the beginning of the fifteenth, you had visited 
some Squire upon his estate in France or in England, 
he would have told you of the whole of it, " These 
are my lands." But the peasant (as he now was) 
would have said also of his holding, " This is my 
land." He could not be evicted from it. The dues 
which he was customarily bound to pay were but a 
fraction of its total produce. He could not always 
sell it, but it was always inheritable from father to 
son ; and, in general, at the close of this long process 
of a thousand years the Slave had become a free man 
for all the ordinary purposes of society. He bought 
and sold. He saved as he willed, he invested, he built, 
he drained at his discretion, and if he improved the 
land it was to his own profit. 

Meanwhile, side by side with this emancipation of 
mankind in the direct line of descent from the old 
chattel slaves of the Roman villa went, in the Middle 
Ages, a crowd of institutions which all similarly made 



for a distribution of property, and for the destruction 
of even the fossil remnants of a then forgotten Servile 
State. Thus industry of every kind in the towns, in 
transport, in crafts, and in commerce, was organised 
intheform of Guilds. And a Guild was asociety part- 
ly co-operative, but in the main composed of private 
owners of capital whose corporation was self-govern- 
ing, and was designed to check competition between 
its members : to prevent the growth of one at the ex- 
pense of the other. Above all, most jealously did the 
Guild safeguard the division of property, so that 
there should be formed within its ranks no proletariat 
upon the one side, and no monopolising capitalist 
upon the other. 

There was a period of apprenticeship at a man's 
entry into a Guild, during which he worked for a 
master ; but in time he became a master in his turn. 
The existence of such corporations as the normal 
units of industrial production, of commercial effort, 
and of the means of transport, is proof enough of what 
the social spirit was which had also enfranchised the 
labourer upon the land. And while such institutions 
flourished side by side with the no longer servile 
village communities, freehold or absolute possession 
of the soil, as distinguished from the tenure of the 
serf under the lord, also increased. 

These three forms under which labour was exer- 
cised the serf, secure in his position, and burdened 
49 4 


only with regular dues, which were but a fraction of 
his produce ; the freeholder, a man independent save 
for money dues, which were more of a tax than a rent; 
the Guild, in which well-divided capital worked co- 
operatively for craft production, for transport and for 
commerce all three between them were making for 
a society which should be based upon the principle of 
property. All, or most, the normal family should 
own. And on ownership the freedom of the State 
should repose. 

The State, as the minds of men envisaged it at the 
close of this process, was an agglomeration of families 
of varying wealth, but by far the greater number 
owners of the means of production. It was an agglo- 
meration in which the stability of this distributive 
system (as I have called it) was guaranteed by the 
existence of co-operative bodies, binding men of the 
same craft or of the same village together ; guaran- 
teeing the small proprietor against loss of his econo- 
mic independence, while at the same time it guaran- 
teed society against the growth of a proletariat. If 
liberty of purchase and of sale, of mortgage and of 
inheritance was restricted, it was restricted with the 
social object of preventing the growth of an economic 
oligarchy which could exploit the rest of the com- 
munity. The restraints upon liberty were restraints 
designed for the preservation of liberty ; and every 
action of Mediaeval Society, from the flower of the 



Middle Ages to the approach of their catastrophe, 
was directed towards the establishment of a State in 
which men should be economically free through the 
possession of capital and of land. 

Save here and there in legal formulae, or in rare 
patches isolated and eccentric, the Servile Institution 
had totally disappeared; normust it be imagined that 
anything in the nature of Collectivism had replaced 
it. There was common land, but it was common land 
jealously guarded by men who were also personal pro- 
prietors of other land. Common property in the vil- 
lage was but one of the forms of property, and was 
used rather as the fly-wheel to preserve the regularity 
of the co-operative machine than as a type of holding 
in any way peculiarly sacred. The Guilds had pro- 
perty in common, but that property was the property 
necessary to their co-operative life, their Halls, their 
Funds for Relief, their Religious Endowments. As 
for the instruments of their trades, those instruments 
were owned by the individual members, not by the 
guild, save where they were of so expensive a kind as 
to necessitate a corporate control. 

Such was the transformation which had come over 
European society in the courseof ten Christian centur- 
ies. Slavery had gone, and in itsplace had come that 
establishment of free possession whichseemedsonor- 
mal to men, and so consonant to a happy human life. 
No particular name was then found for it. To-day, 


and now that it has disappeared, we must construct 
an awkward one, and say that the Middle Ages had 
instinctively conceived and brought into existence 

That excellent consummation of human society 
passed, as we know, and was in certain Provinces of 
Europe, but more particularly in Britain, destroyed. 

For a society in which the determinant mass of 
families were owners of capital and of land; for one 
in which production was regulated by self-governing 
corporations of small owners ; an4 for one in which 
the misery and insecurity of a proletariat was un- 
known, there came to be substituted the dreadful 
moral anarchy against which all moral effort is now 
turned, and which goes by the name of Capitalism. 

How did such a catastrophe come about ? Why 
was it permitted, and upon what historical process 
did the evil batten ? What turned an England eco- 
nomically free into the England which we know to- 
day, of which at least one-third is indigent, of which 
nineteen-twentieths are dispossessed of capital and 
of land, and of which the whole industry and national 
life is controlled upon its economic side by a few 
chance directors of millions, a few masters of unsocial 
and irresponsible monopolies ? 

The answer most usually given to this fundamental 
question in our history, and the one most readily ac- 
cepted, is that this misfortune came about through a 



material process known as the Industrial Revolution. 
The use of expensive machinery, the concentration 
of industry and of its implements are imagined to 
have enslaved, in some blind way, apart from the 
human will, the action of English mankind. 

The explanation is wholly false. No such material 
cause determined the degradation from which we 

It was the deliberate action of men, evil will in a 
few and apathy of will among the many, which pro- 
duced a catastrophe as human in its causes and in- 
ception as in its vile effect. 

Capitalism was not the growth of the industrial 
movement, nor of chance material discoveries. A 
little acquaintance with history and a little straight- 
forwardness in the teaching of it would be enough 
to prove that. 

The Industrial System was a growth proceeding 
from Capitalism, not its cause. Capitalism was here 
in England before the Industrial System came into 
being ; before the use of coal and of the new ex- 
pensive machinery, and of the concentration of the 
implements of production in the great towns. Had 
Capitalism not been present before the Industrial 
Revolution, that revolution might have proved as 
beneficent to Englishmen as it has proved malefi- 
cent. But Capitalism that is, the ownership by a 
few of the springs of life was present long before the 


great discoveries came. It warped the effect of these 
discoveries and new inventions, and it turned them 
from a good into an evil thing. It was not machinery 
that lost us our freedom ; it was the loss of a free 





the societies of Western Christendom and England 
among the rest were economically free. 

Property was an institution native to the State and 
enjoyed by the great mass of its citizens. Co-opera- 
tive institutions, voluntary regulations of labour, re- 
stricted the completely independent use of property 
by its owners only in order to keep that institution 
intactandto prevent the absorption of small property 
by great. 

This excellent state of affairs which we had reached 
after many centuries of Christian development, and 
in which the old institution of slavery had been finally 
eliminated from Christendom, did not everywhere 
survive. In England in particular it was ruined. The 
seeds of the disaster were sown in the sixteenth cen- 
tury. Its first apparent effects came to light in the 
seventeenth. During the eighteenth century Eng- 
land came to be finally, though insecurely, establish- 
ed upon a proletarian basis, that is, it had already be- 
come a society of rich men possessed of the means 
of production on the one hand, and a majority dis- 
possessed of those means upon the other. With the 
nineteenth century the evil plant had come to its 
maturity, and England had become before the close 
of that period a purely Capitalist State, the type 
and model of Capitalism for the whole world : with 


the means of production tightly held by a very small 
group of citizens, and the whole determining mass 
of the nation dispossessed of capital and land, and 
dispossessed, therefore, in all cases of security, and 
in many of sufficiency as well. The mass of English- 
men, still possessed of political, lacked more and 
more the elements of economic, freedom, and were in 
a worse posture than free citizens have ever found 
themselves before in the history of Europe. 

By what steps did so enormous a catastrophe fall 
upon us? 

The first step in the process consisted in the mis- 
handling of a great economic revolution which mark- 
ed the sixteenth century. The lands and the accumu- 
lated wealth of the monasteries were taken out of, 
the hands of their old possessors with the intention 
of vesting them in the Crown but they passed, as 
a fact, not into the hands of the Crown, but into the 
hands of an already wealthy section of thecommunity 
who, after the change was complete, became in the 
succeeding hundred years the governing power of 

This is what happened : 

The England of the early sixteenth century, the 
England over which Henry VIII. inherited his power- 
ful Crown in youth, though it was an England in 
which the great mass of men owned the land they 
tilled and the houses in which they dwelt, and the im- 



plements with which they worked, was yet an Eng- 
land in which these goods, though widely distributed, 
were distributed unequally. 

Then, as now, the soil and its fixtures werethe basis 
of all wealth, but the proportion between the value of 
the soil and its fixtures and the value of other means 
of production (implements, stores of clothing and of 
subsistence, etc.) was different from what it is now. 
The land and the fixtures upon it formed a very much 
larger fraction of the totality of the means of produc- 
tion than they do to-day. They represent to-day not 
one-half the total means of production of this country, 
and though they are the necessary foundation for all 
wealth production, yet our great machines, our stores 
of food and clothing, our coal and oil, our ships and 
the rest of it, come to more than the true value of 
the land and of the fixtures upon the land : they come 
to more than the arable soil and the pasture, the con- 
structional valueof the houses, wharves anddocks,and 
so forth. In the early sixteenth century the land and 
the fixtures upon it came, upon the contrary, to very 
much more than all other forms of wealth combined. 

Now this form of wealth was here, more than in 
any other Western European country, already in the 
hands of a wealthy land-owning class at the end of 
the Middle Ages. 

It is impossible to give exact statistics, because 
none were gathered, and we can only make general 


statements based upon inference and research. But, 
roughly speaking, we may say that of the total value 
of the land and its fixtures, probably rather more 
than a quarter, though less than a third, was in the 
hands of this wealthy class. 

The England of that day was mainly agricultural, 
and consisted of more than four, but less than six 
million people, and in every agricultural community 
you would have the Lord, as he was legally called (the 
squire, as he was already conversationally termed), 
in possession of more demesne land than in any 
other country. On the average you found him, I say, 
owning in this absolute fashion rather more than a 
quarter, perhaps a third of the land of the village : 
in the towns the distribution was more even. Some- 
times it was a private individual who was in this posi- 
tion, sometimes a corporation, but in every village 
you would have found this demesne land absolutely 
owned by the political head of the village, occupying 
a considerable proportion of its acreage. The rest, 
though distributed as property among the less for- 
tunate of the population, and carrying with it houses 
and implements from which they could not be dis- 
possessed, paid certain dues to the Lord, and, what 
was more, the Lord exercised local justice. This class 
of wealthy land-owners had been also for now one 
hundred years the Justices upon whom local ad- 
ministration depended. 



There was no reason why this state of affairs should 
not gradually have led to the rise of the Peasant 
and the decay of the Lord. That is what happened 
in France, and it might perfectly well have happened 
here. A peasantry eager to purchase might have 
gradually extended their holdings at the expense of 
the demesne land, and to the distribution of property, 
which was already fairly complete, there might have 
been added another excellent element, namely, the 
more equal possession of that property. But any 
such process of gradual buying by the small man 
from the great, such as would seem natural to the 
temper of us European people, and such as has since 
taken place nearly everywhere in countries which 
were left free to act upon their popular instincts, was 
interrupted in this country by an artificial revolution 
of the most violent kind. This artificial revolution 
consisted in the seizing of the monastic lands by the 

It is important to grasp clearly the nature of this 
operation, for the whole economic future of England 
was to flow from it. 

Of the demesne lands, and the power of local ad- 
ministration which they carried with them (a very 
important feature, as we shall see later), rather more 
than a quarter were in the hands of the Church ; the 
Church was therefore the "Lord "of something over 
25 per cent, say 28 per cent, or perhaps nearly 30 


per cent., of English agricultural communities, and 
the overseers of a like proportion of all English agri- 
cultural produce. The Church was further the ab- 
solute owner in practice of something like 30 per 
cent, of the demesne land in the villages, and the re- 
ceiver of something like 30 per cent, of the custom- 
ary dues, etc., paid by the smaller owners to the 
greater. All this economic power lay until 1535 in 
the hands of Cathedral Chapters, communities of 
monks and nuns, educational establishments con- 
ducted by the clergy, and so forth. 

When the Monastic lands were confiscated by 
Henry VIII., not the whole of this vast economic 
influence was suddenly extinguished. The secular 
clergy remained endowed, and most of the educa-, 
tional establishments, though looted, retained some 
revenue ; but though the whole 30 per cent did not 
suffer confiscation, something well over 20 per cent, 
did, and the revolution effected by this vast opera- 
tion was by far the most complete, the most sudden, 
and the most momentous of any that has taken place 
in the economic history of any European people. 

It was at first intended \.Q retain this great mass of 
the means of production in the hands of the Crown : 
that must be clearly remembered by any student of 
the fortunes of England, and by all who marvel at the 
contrast between the old England and the new. 

Had that intention been firmly maintained, the 



English State and its government would have been 
the most powerful in Europe. 

The Executive (which in those days meant the 
King) would have had a greater opportunity for crush- 
ing the resistance of the wealthy, for backing its 
political power with economic power, and for order- 
ing the social life of its subjects than any other ex- 
ecutive in Christendom. 

Had Henry VIII. and his successors kept the land 
thus confiscated, the power of the French Monarchy, 
at which we are astonished, would have been nothing 
to the power of the English. 

The King of England would have had in his own 
hands an instrument of control of the most absolute 
sort. He would presumably have used it, as a strong 
central government always does, for the weakening 
of the wealthier classes, and to the indirect advantage 
of the mass of the people. At any rate, it would have 
been a very different England indeed from the Eng- 
land we know, if the King had held fast to his own 
after the dissolution of the monasteries. 

Now it is precisely here that the capital point in 
this great revolution appears. The King failed to 
keep the lands he had seized. That class of large land- 
owners which already existed and controlled, as I 
have said, anything from a quarter to a third of the 
agricultural values of England, were too strong for 
the monarchy. They insisted upon land being granted 


to themselves, sometimes freely, sometimes for ridi- 
culously small sums, and they were strong enough 
in Parliament, and through the local administrative 
power they had, to see that their demands were satis- 
fied. Nothing that the Crown let go ever went back 
to the Crown, and year after year more and more of 
what had once been the monastic land became the ab- 
solute possession of the large land-owners. 

Observe the effect of this. All over England men 
who already held in virtually absolute property from 
one-quarter to one-third of the soil and the ploughs 
and the barns of a village, became possessed in a 
very few years of a further great section of the means 
of production, which turned the scale wholly in their 
favour. They added to that third a new and extra 
fifth. They became at a blow the owners of half\h& 
land ! In many centres of capital importance they 
had come to own more than half the land. They were 
in many districts not only the unquestioned superiors, 
but the economic masters of the rest of the commun- 
ity. They could buy to the greatest advantage. They 
were strictly competitive, getting every shilling of due 
and of rent where the old clerical landlords had been 
customary leaving much to the tenant. They be- 
gan to fill the universities, the judiciary. The Crown 
less and less decided between great and small. More 
and more the great could decide in their own favour. 
They soon possessed by these operations the bulk of 



the means of production, and they immediately began 
the process of eating up the small independent men 
and gradually forming those great estates which, in 
the course of a few generations, became identical with 
the village itself. All over England you may notice 
that the great squires' houses date from this revolu- 
tion or after it. The manorial house, the house of 
the local great man as it was in the Middle Ages, 
survives here and there to show of what immense 
effect this revolution was. The low-timbered place 
with its steadings and outbuildings, only a larger 
farmhouse among the other farmhouses, is turned 
after the Reformation and thenceforward into a pal- 
ace. Save where great castles (which were only held 
of the Crown and not owned) made an exception, the 
pre-Reformation gentry lived as men richer than, but 
not the mastersof, other farmers around them. After 
the Reformation there began to arise all over England 
those great " country houses" which rapidly became 
the typical centres of English agricultural life. 

The process was in full swing before Henry died. 
Unfortunately for England, he left as his heir a sickly 
child, during the six years of whose reign, from 1 547 
to 1 5 5 3, the loot went on at an appalling rate. When 
he died and Mary came to the throne it was nearly 
completed. A mass of new families had arisen, 
wealthy out of all proportion to anything which the 
older England had known, and bound by a common 
65 5 


interest to the older families which had joined in the 
grab. Every single man who sat in Parliament for 
a country required his price for voting the dissolu- 
tion of the monasteries ; every single man received 
it. A list of the members of the Dissolution Parlia- 
ment is enough to prove this, and, apart from their 
power in Parliament, this class had a hundred other 
ways of insisting on their will. The Howards(already 
of some lineage), the Cavendishes, the Cecils, the 
Russels, and fifty other new families thus rose upon 
the ruins of religion ; and the process went steadily 
on until, about one hundred years after its inception, 
the whole face of England was changed. 

In the place of a powerful Crown disposing of re- 
venues far greater than that of any subject, you had^ 
a Crown at its wit's end for money, and dominated 
by subjects some of whom were its equals in wealth, 
and who could, especially through the action of Par- 
liament (which they now controlled), do much what 
they willed with Government. 

In other words, by the first third of the seventeenth 
century, by 1630-40, the economic revolution was 
finally accomplished, and the new economic reality 
thrusting itself upon the old traditions of England 
was a powerful oligarchy of largeowners overshadow- 
ing an impoverished and dwindled monarchy. 

Othercauses had contributed to this deplorable re- 
sult. The change in the value of money had hit the 



Crown very hard ;* the peculiar history of the Tudor 
family, their violent passions, their lack of resolution 
and of any continuous policy, to some extent the 
character of Charles I. himself, and many another 
subsidiary cause may be quoted. But the great main 
fact upon which the whole thing is dependent is the 
fact that the Monastic Lands, at least a fifth of the 
wealth of the country, had been transferred to the 
great land-owners, and that this transference had 
tipped the scale over entirely in their favour as against 
the peasantry. 

The diminished and impoverished Crown could no 
longer stand. It fought against the new wealth, the 
struggle of the Civil Wars ; it was utterly defeated ; 
and when a final settlement was arrived at in 1660, 
you have all the realities of power in the hands of a 
small powerful class of wealthy men, the King still 
surrounded by the forms and traditions of his old 
power, but in practice a salaried puppet. And in that 
economic world which underlies all political appear- 
ances, the great dominating note was that a few 
wealthy families had got hold of the bulk of the means 

* The purchasing power of money fell during this century to 
about a third of its original standard. 3 (say) would purchase 
under Charles I. the necessities which i would have pur- 
chased under Henry VIII. Nearly all the receipts of the Crown 
were customary. Most of its expenses were competitive. It 
continued to get but i where it was gradually compelled to 
pay out 3. 


of production in England, while the same families 
exercised all local administrative power and were 
moreover the Judges, the Higher Education, the 
Church, and the generals. They quite overshadowed 
what was left of central government in this country. 

Take, as a starting-point for what followed, the 
date 1 700. By that time more than halfof the English 
were dispossessed of capital and of land. Not one 
man in tWo,even if you reckon the very small owners, 
inhabited a house of which he was the secure posses- 
sor, or tilled land from which he could not be turned 

Such a proportion may seem to us to-day a wonder- 
fully free arrangement, and certainly if nearly one- 
half of our population were possessed of the means 
of production, we should be in a very different situa- 
tion from that in which we find ourselves. But the 
point to seize is that, though the bad business was 
very far from completion in or about the year 1700, 
yet by that date England had already become CAPI- 
TALIST. She had already permitted a vast section of 
her population to become proletarian, and it is this 
and not the so-called " Industrial Revolution," a later 
thing, which accounts for the terrible social condition 
in which we find ourselves to-day. 

How true this is what I still 'have to say in this 
section will prove. 

In an England thus already cursed with a very 



large proletariat class, and in an [England already 
directed by a dominating Capitalist class, possessing 
the means of production, there came a great indus- 
trial development. 

Had that industrial development come upon a 
people economically free, it would have taken a co- 
operative form. Coming as it did upon a people 
which had already largely lost its economic freedom, 
it took at its very origin a Capitalist form, and this 
formithasretained,expanded,and perfected through- 
out two hundred years. 

It was in England that the Industrial System arose. 
It was in England that all its traditions and habits 
were formed ; and because the England in which it 
arose was already a Capitalist England, modern In- 
dustrialism, wherever you see it at work to-day, having 
spread from England, has proceeded upon the Capi- 
talist model. 

It was in 1705 that the first practical steam-engine, 
Newcomen's, was set to work. The life of a man 
elapsed before this invention was made, by Watt's 
introduction of the condenser, into the great instru- 
ment of production which has transformed our in- 
dustry but in those sixty years all the origins of the 
Industrial System are to be discovered. It was just be- 
fore Watt's patent that Hargreaves' spinning-jenny 
appeared. Thirty years earlier, Abraham Darby of 
Colebrook Dale, at the end of a long series of experi- 


merits which had covered morethanacentury,smelted 
iron-ore successfully with coke. Not twenty years 
later, King introduced the flying shuttle, the first 
great improvement in the hand-loom; and in general 
the period covered by such a life as that ofDr Johnson, 
born just after Newcomen's engine was first set work- 
ing, and dying seventy-four years afterwards, when 
the Industrial System was in full blast, covers that 
great transformation of England. A man who, as a 
child, could remember the last years of Queen Anne, 
and who lived to the eve of the French Revolution, 
saw passing before his eyes the change which trans- 
formed English society and has led it to the expan- 
sion and peril in which we see it to-day. 

What was the characteristic mark of that half-cen- 
tury and more ? Why did the new inventions give us 
the form of society now known and hated under the 
name of Industrial? Why did the vast increase in the 
powers of production, in population and in accumu- 
lation of wealth, turn the mass of Englishmen into a 
poverty-stricken proletariat, cut off the rich from the 
rest of the nation, and develop to the full all the evils 
which we associate with the Capitalist State ? 

To that question an answer almost as universal as 
it is unintelligent has been given. That answer is 
not only unintelligent but false, and it will be my busi- 
ness here to show how false it is. The answer so pro- 
vided in innumerable text-books, and taken almost 



as a commonplace in our universities, is that the new 
methods of production the new machinery, the new 
implements fatally and of themselves developed a 
Capitalist State in which a few should own the means 
of production and the mass should be proletariat. 
The new instruments, it is pointed out, were on so 
vastly greater a scale than the old, and were so much 
more expensive, that the small man could not afford 
them ; while the rich man, who could afford them, ate 
up by his competition, and reduced from the position 
of a small owner to that of a wage-earner, his insuffi- 
ciently equipped competitor who still attempted to 
struggle on with the older and cheaper tools. To this 
(we are told) the advantages of concentration were 
added in favour of the large owner against the small. 
Not only were the new instruments expensive almost 
in proportion to their efficiency, but, especially after 
the introduction of steam, they were efficient in pro- 
portion to their concentration in few places and under 
the direction of a few men. Under the effect of such 
false arguments as these we have been taught to be- 
lieve that the horrors of the Industrial System were a 
blind and necessary product of material and imperson- 
al forces, and that wherever the steam engine, the pow- 
er loom, the blast furnace and the rest were introduc- 
ed.therefatally wouldsoon appearalittle groupofow- 
ners exploiting a vast majority of the dispossessed. 
It is astonishing that a statement so unhistorical 


should have gained so general a credence. Indeed, 
were the main truths of English history taught in our 
schools and universities to-day, were educated men 
familiar with the determining and major facts of the 
national past, such follies could never have taken root. 
The vast growth of the proletariat, the concentration 
of ownership into the hands of a few owners, and the 
exploitation by those owners of the mass of the com- 
munity,had no fatal or necessary connection with the 
discovery of new and perpetually improving methods 
of production. The evil proceeded indirect historical 
sequence, proceeded patently and demonstrably , from 
the fact that England, the seed-plot of the Industrial 
System, was already captured by a wealthy oligarchy 
before the series of great discoveries began. 

Considerin what way the Industrial System develop- 
ed upon Capitalist lines. Why were a few rich men put 
with such ease into possession of the new methods? 
Why was it normal and natural in their eyes and in 
that of con temporary society that those who produced 
the new wealth with the new machinery should be 
proletarian and dispossessed ? Simply because the 
England upon which the new discoveries had come 
was already an England owned as to its soil and ac- 
cumulations of wealth by a small minority : it was 
already&n. England in which perhaps half of the whole 
population was proletarian, and a medium for exploit- 
ation ready to hand. 



When any one of the new industries was launched 
it had to be capitalised; that is, accumulated wealth 
from some source or other had to be found which would 
support labour in the process of production until that 
process should be complete. Someone must find the 
corn and the meat and the housing and the clothing 
by which should be supported, bet ween the extraction 
of the raw material and the moment when the con- 
sumption of the finished article could begin, thehuman 
agents which dealt with that raw material and turned 
it into the finished product. Had property been well 
distributed, protected by co-operative guilds fenced 
round and supported by custom and by the autonomy 
of great artisan corporations, those accumulations of 
wealth, necessary for the launching of each new me- 
thod of production and for each new perfection of it, 
would have been discovered in the mass of small own- 
ers. Their corporations, their little parcels of wealth 
combined would have furnished the capitalisation re- 
quired for the new processes,and men already owners 
would, as one invention succeeded another, have in- 
creased the total wealth of the community without 
disturbing the balance of distribution. There is no 
conceivable lin k in reason or in experience which binds 
the capitalisation of a new process with the idea of a 
few employing owners and a mass of employed non- 
owners working at a wage. Such great discoveries 
coming in a society like that of the thirteenth century 


would have blest and enriched mankind. Comingupon 
the diseased moral conditions of the eighteenth cen- 
tury in this country, they proved a curse. 

To whom could the new industry turn for capitali- 
sation ? The small owner had already largely dis- 
appeared. The corporate life and mutual obligations 
which had supported him and confirmed him in his 
property had been broken to pieces by no "economic 
development," but by the deliberate action of the rich. 
He was ignorant because his schools had been taken 
from him and the universities closed to him. He was 
the more ignorant because the common life which 
once nourished his social sense and the co-operative 
arrangements which had once been his defence had 
disappeared. When you sought an accumulation oY 
corn, of clothing, of housing, of fuel as the indispensable 
preliminary to the launching of your new industry; 
when you looked round for someone who could find 
the accumulated wealth necessary for these consider- 
able experiments, you had to turn to the class which 
had already monopolised the bulk of the means of 
production in England. The rich men alone could 
furnish you with those supplies. 

Nor was this all. The supplies once found and the 
adventure " capitalised," that form of human energy 
which lay best to hand, which was indefinitely ex- 
ploitable, weak, ignorant, and desperately necessit- 
ous, ready to produce for you upon almost any terms, 


and glad enough if you would only keep it alive, 
was the existing proletariat which the new pluto- 
cracy had created when, in cornering the wealth of 
the country after the Reformation, they had thrust 
out the mass of Englishmen from the possession of 
implements, of houses, and of land. 

The rich class, adopting some new process of pro- 
duction for its private gain, worked it upon those 
lines of mere competition which its avarice had al- 
ready established. Co-operative tradition was dead. 
Where would it find its cheapest labour ? Obviously 
among the proletariat not among the remaining 
small owners. What class would increase under the 
new wealth ? Obviously the proletariat again, with- 
out responsibilities, with nothing to leave to its pro- 
geny ; and as they swelled the capitalist's gain, they 
enabled him with increasing power to buy out the 
small owner and send him to swell by another tribu- 
tary the proletarian mass. 

It was upon this account that the Industrial Re- 
volution, as it is called, took in its very origins the 
form which has made it an almost unmixed curse for 
the unhappy society in which it has flourished. The 
rich.already possessedof the accumulations by which 
that industrial change could alone be nourished, in- 
herited all its succeeding accumulations of imple- 
ments and all its increasing accumulations of sub- 
sistence. The factory system, starting upon a basis 


of capitalist and proletariat, grew in the mould which 
had determined its origins. With every new advance 
the capitalist looked for proletariat grist to feed the 
productive mill. Every circumstance of that society, 
the form in which the laws that governed ownership 
and profit were cast, the obligations of partners, the 
relations bet ween " master " and " man," directly made 
for the indefinite expansion of a subject, formless, 
wage-earning class controlled by a small body of 
owners, which body would tend to become smaller 
and richer still, and to be possessed of power ever 
greater and greater as the bad business unfolded. 

The spread of economic oligarchy was everywhere, 
and not in industry alone. The great landlords de- 
stroyed deliberately and of set purpose and to their 
own ad vantage the common rights over common land. 
The small plutocracy with which they were knit up, 
and with whose mercantile elements they were now 
fused, directed everything to its own ends. That 
strong central government which should protect the 
community againstthe rapacity of a few had gone gen- 
erations before. Capitalism triumphant wielded all 
the mechanism of legislation and of information too. 
It still holds them ; and there is not an example of 
so-called "Social Reform "to-day which isnotdemon- 
strably (though often subconsciously) directed to the 
further entrenchment and confirmation of an indus- 
trial society in which it is taken for granted that a 



few shall own, that the vast majority shall live at a 
wage under them, and that all the bulk of English- 
men may hope for is the amelioration of their lot by 
regulations and by control from above but not by 
property ; not by freedom. 

Weall feel and thosefew of us who have analysed 
the matter not only feel but know that the Capitalist 
society thus gradually developed from its origins in 
the capture of the land four hundred years ago has 
reached its term. It is almost self-evident that it can- 
not continue in the form which now three generations 
have known, and it is equally self-evident that some 
solution must be found for the intolerable and in- 
creasing instability with which it has poisoned our 
lives. But before considering the solutions variously 
presented by various schools of thought, I shall in my 
next section show how and why the English Capi- 
talist Industrial System is thus intolerably unstable 
and consequently presents an acute problem which 
must be solved under pain of social death. 

It must be noted that modern Industrialism has spread 
to many other centres from England. It bears everywhere 
the features stamped upon it by its origin in this country. 





which I have introduced by way of illustrating my 
subject in the last two sections I now return to the 
general discussion of my thesis and to the logical 
process by which it may be established. 

The Capitalist State is unstable, and indeed more 
properly a transitory phase lying between two per- 
manent and stable states of society. 

In order to appreciate why this is so, let us recall 
the definition of the Capitalist State : 

"A society in which the ownership of the means 
of production is confined to a body of free citizens, 
not large enough to make up properly a general char- 
acter of that society, while the rest are dispossessed 
of the means of production, and are therefore prole- 
tarian, we call Capitalist? 

Note the several points of such a state of affairs. 
You have private ownership ; but it is not private 
ownership distributed in many hands and thus fa- 
miliar as an institution to society as a whole. Again, 
you have the great majority dispossessed but at the 
same time citizens, that is, men politically free to act, 
though economically impotent ; again, though it is 
but an inference from our definition, it is a neces- 
81 6 


sary inference that there will be under Capitalism a 
conscious, direct, and planned exploitation of the ma- 
jority, the free citizens who do not own by the min- 
ority who are owners. For wealth must be produced : 
the whole of that community must live : and the pos- 
sessors can make such terms with the non-possessors 
as shall make it certain that a portion of what the non- 
possessors have produced shall go to the possessors. 

A society thus constituted cannot endure. It can- 
not endure because it is subject to two very severe 
strains: strains which increase in severity in propor- 
tion as that society becomes more thoroughly Capi- 
talist. The first of these strains arises from the diver- 
gence between the moral theories upon which the 
State reposes and the social facts which those moral 
theories attempt to govern. The second strain arises 
from the insecurity to which Capitalism condemns 
the great mass of society, and the general character 
of anxiety and peril which it imposes upon all citi- 
zens, but in particular upon the majority, which con- 
sists, under Capitalism, of dispossessed free men. 

Of these two strains it is impossible to say which 
is the gravest. Either would be enough to destroy 
a social arrangement in which it was long present. 
The two combined make that destruction certain ; 
and there is no longer any doubt that Capitalist so- 
ciety must transform itself into some other and more 
stable arrangement. It is the object of these pages 



to discover what that stable arrangement will prob- 
ably be. 

We say that there is a moral strain already in- 
tolerably severe and growing more severe with every 
perfection of Capitalism. 

This moral strain comes from a contradiction be- 
tween the realities of Capitalist and the moral base 
of our laws and traditions. 

The moral base upon which our laws are still ad- 
ministered and our conventions raised presupposes a 
state composed of free citizens. Our laws defend pro- 
perty as a normal institution with which all citizens 
are acquainted, and which all citizens respect. It pun- 
ishes theft as an abnormal incident only occurring 
when, through evil motives, one free citizen acquires 
the property of another without his knowledge and 
against his will. It punishes fraud as another abnor- 
mal incident in which, from evil motives, one free citi- 
zen induces another to part with his property upon 
false representations. It enforces contract, the sole 
moral base of which is the freedom of the two con- 
tracting parties, and the power of either, if it so please 
him, not to enter into a contract which, once entered 
into, must be enforced. Itgives to an ownerthe power 
to leave his property by will, under the conception 
that such ownership and such passage of property (to 


natural heirs as a rule, but exceptionally to any other 
whom the testator may point out) is the normal opera- 
tion of a society generally familiar with such things, 
and finding them part of the domestic life lived by 
the mass of its citizens. It casts one citizen in dam- 
ages if by any wilful action he has caused loss to an- 
other for it presupposes him able to pay. 

The sanction upon which social life reposes is, in 
our moral theory, the legal punishment enforceable 
in our Courts, and the basis presupposed for the se- 
curity and material happiness of our citizens is the 
possession of goods which shall guarantee us from 
anxiety and permit us an independence of action in 
the midst of our fellowmen. 

Now contrast all this, the moral theory upon which 
society is still perilously conducted, the moral theory 
to which Capitalism itself turns for succour when it 
is attacked, contrast, I say, its formulae and its pre- 
suppositions with the social reality of a Capitalist 
State such as is England to-day. 

Property remains as an instinct perhaps with most 
of the citizens ; as an experience and a reality it is 
unknown to nineteen out of twenty. One hundred 
forms of fraud, the necessary corollary of unrestrained 
competition between a few and of unrestrained ava- 
rice as the motive controlling production, are not or 
cannot be punished : petty forms of violence in theft 
and of cunning in fraud the laws can deal with, but 



they cannot deal with these alone. Our legal mach- 
inery has become little more than an engine for pro- 
tecting the few owners against the necessities, the de- 
mands, or the hatred of the mass of their dispossess- 
ed fellow-citizens. The vast bulk of so-called " free " 
contracts are to-day leonine contracts: arrangements 
which one man was free to take or to leave, but which 
theother man was not free to take or to leave, because 
the second had for his alternative starvation. 

Most important of all, the fundamental social fact 
of our movement, far more important than any se- 
curity afforded by law, or than any machinery which 
the State can put into action, is the fact that liveli- 
hood is at the will of the possessors. It can be grant- 
ed by the possessors to the non-possessors, or it can 
be withheld. The real sanction in our society for the 
arrangements by which it is conducted is not punish- 
ment enforceable by the Courts, but the withholding 
of livelihood from the dispossessed by the possessors. 
Most men now fear the loss of employment more than 
they fear legal punishment, and the discipline under 
which men are coerced in their modern forms of ac- 
tivity in England is the fear of dismissal. The true 
masterof the Englishman to-day is not the Sovereign 
nor the officers of State, nor, save indirectly, the laws; 
his true master is the Capitalist. 

Of these main truths everyone is aware ; and any- 
one who sets out to deny them does so to-day at the 


peril of his reputation either for honesty or for in- 

If it be asked why things have come to a head so 
late (Capitalism having been in growth for so long), 
the answer is that England, even now the most com- 
pletely Capitalist State of the modern world, did not 
itself become a completely Capitalist State until the 
present generation. Within the memory of men now 
living half England was agricultural, with relations 
domestic rather than competitive between the various 
human factors to production. 

This moral strain, therefore, arising from the diver- 
gence between what our laws and moral phrases pre- 
tend, and what our society actually is, makes of , that 
society an utterly unstable thing. 

This spiritual thesis is of far greater gravity than 
the narrow materialism of a generation now passing 
might imagine. Spiritual conflict is more fruitful of 
instability in the State than conflict of any other 
kind, and there is acute spiritual conflict, conflict in 
every man's conscience and ill-ease throughout the 
commonwealth when the realities of society are di- 
vorced from the moral base of its institution. 

The second strain which we have noted in Capi- 
talism, its second element of instability, consists in 
the fact that Capitalism destroys security. 


Experience is enough to save us any delay upon 
this main point of our matter. But even without ex- 
perience we could reason with absolute certitude from 
the very nature of Capitalism that its chief effect 
would be the destruction of security in human life. 

Combine these two elements : the ownership of the 
means of production by a very few ; the political free- 
dom of owners and non-owners alike. There follows 
immediately from that combination a competitive 
market wherein the labour of the non-owner fetches 
just what it is worth, not as full productive power, 
but as productive power which will leave a surplus to 
the Capitalist. It fetches nothing when the labourer 
cannot work, more in proportion to the pace at which 
he is driven ; less in middle age than in youth ; less 
in old age than in middle age; nothing in sickness ; 
nothing in despair. 

A man in a position to accumulate (the normal 
result of human labour), a man founded upon pro- 
perty in sufficient amount and in established form is 
no more productive in his non-productive moments 
than is a proletarian ; but his life is balanced and re- 
gulated by his reception of rent and interest as well 
as wages. Surplus values come to him, and are the 
fly-wheel balancing theextremes of his life and carry- 
ing him over his bad times. With a proletarian it 
cannot be so. The aspect from Capital looks at a hu- 
man being whose labour it proposes to purchase cuts 


right across that normal aspect of human life from 
which we all regard our own affections, duties, and 
character. A man thinks of himself, of his chances 
and of his security along the line of his own individ- 
ual existence from birth to death. Capital purchasing 
his labour (and not the man himself) purchases but a 
cross-section of his life, his moments of activity. For 
the rest, he must fend for himself; but to fend for 
yourself when you have nothing is to starve. 

As a matter of fact, where a few possess the means 
of production perfectly free political conditions are 
impossible. A perfect Capitalist State cannot exist, 
though we have come nearer to it in modern England 
than other and more fortunate nations had thought 
possible. In the perfect Capitalist State there would 
be no food available for the non-owner save when he 
was actually engaged in Production, and that absur- 
dity would, by quickly ending all human lives save 
those of the owners, put a term to the arrangement. 
If you left men completely free under a Capitalist 
system, there would be so heavy a mortality from star- 
vation as would dry up the sources of labour in a very 
short time. 

Imaginethe dispossessed to be ideally perfect cow- 
ards, the possessors to consider nothing whatsoever 
except thebuyingof their labour in the cheapest mar- 
ket and the system would break down from the death 
of children and of out-o'-works and of women. You 


would not have a State in mere decline such as ours 
is. You would have a State manifestly and patently 

As a fact, of course, Capitalism cannot proceed to 
its own logical extreme. So long as the political free- 
dom of all citizens is granted [the freedom of the few 
possessors of food to grant or withhold it,of the many 
non-possessors to strike any bargain at all, lest they 
lack it]: to exercise such freedom fully is to starve the 
very young, the old, the impotent, and the despair- 
ing to death. Capitalism must keep alive, by non- 
Capitalist methods, great masses of the population 
who would otherwise starve to death; and that is 
what Capitalism was careful to do to an increasing 
extent as it got a stronger and a stronger grip upon 
the English people. Elizabeth's Poor Law at the be- 
ginning of the business,the Poor Law of 1834, coming 
at a moment when nearly half England had passed 
into the grip of Capitalism, are original and primitive 
instances : there are to-day a hundred others. 

Though this cause of insecurity the fact that the 
possessors have no direct incentive to keep men alive 
is logically the most obvious,and always the most 
enduring under a Capitalist system, there is another 
cause more poignant in its effect upon human life. 
That other cause is the competitive anarchy in pro- 


duction which restricted ownership coupled withfree- 
dom involves. Consider what is involved by the very 
process of production where the implements and 
the soil are in the hands of a few whose motive for 
causing the proletariat to produce is not the use of 
the wealth created but the enjoyment by those pos- 
sessors of surplus value or " profit." 

If full political freedom be allowed to any two such 
possessors of implements and stores, each will active- 
ly watch his market, attempt to undersell the other, 
tend to overproduce at the end of some season of 
extra demand for his article, thus glut the market 
only to suffer a period of depression afterwards and 
so forth. Again, the Capitalist, free, individual direc- 
tor of production, will miscalculate ; sometimes he 
will fail, and his works will be shut down. Again, a 
mass of isolated, imperfectly instructed competing 
units cannot but direct their clashing efforts at an en- 
ormous waste, and that waste will fluctuate. Most 
commissions, most advertisements, most parades, are 
examples of this waste. If this waste of effort could 
be made a constant, the parasitical employment it 
afforded would be a constant too. But of its nature 
it is a most inconstant thing, and the employment it 
affords is therefore necessarily precarious. The con- 
crete translation of this is the insecurity of the com- 
mercial traveller, the advertising agent, the insurance 
agent, and every form of touting and cozening which 



competitive Capitalism carries with it. 

Now here again, as in the case of the insecurity 
produced by age and sickness, Capitalism cannot be 
pursued to its logical conclusion, and it is the element 
of freedom which suffers. Competition is, as a fact, 
restricted to an increasing extent by an understand- 
ingbetween the competitors,accompanied, especially 
in this country, by the ruin of the smaller competitor 
through secret conspiracies entered into by the larger 
men, and supported by the secret political forces of 
the State.* In a word, Capitalism, proving almost 
as unstable to the owners as to the non-owners, is 
tending towards stability by losing its essential cha- 
racter of political freedom. No better proof of the in- 
stability of Capitalism as a system could be desired. 

Take any one of the numerous Trusts which now 
control English industry, and have made of modern 
England the type, quoted throughout the Continent, 
of artificial monopolies. If the full formula of Capi- 
talism were accepted by our Courts and our execu- 
tive statesmen, anyone could start a rival business, 
undersell those Trusts and shatter the comparative 
security they afford to industry within their field. 
The reason that no one does this is that political free- 

* Before any trust is established in this country, the first step 
is to "interest" one of our politicians. The Telephones, the 
South Wales Coal Trust, the happily defeated Soap Trust, the 
Soda, Fish, and Fruit Trusts, are examples in point. 



dom is not, as a fact, protected here by the Courts in 
commercial affairs. A man attempting to compete 
with one of our great English Trusts would find him- 
self at once undersold. He might, by all the spirit 
of European law for centuries,indict those who would 
ruin him, citing them for a conspiracy in restraint of 
trade; of this conspiracy he would find the judge and 
the politicians most heartily in support. 

But it must always be remembered that these con- 
spiracies in restraint of trade which are the mark of 
modern England are in themselves a mark of the 
transition from the true Capitalist phase to another. 

Under the essential conditions of Capitalism 
under a perfect political freedom such conspiracies % 
would be punished by the Courts for what they are : 
to wit, a contravention of the fundamental doctrine 
of political liberty. For this doctrine, while it gives 
any man the right to make any contract he chooses 
with any labourer and offer the produceat such prices 
as he sees fit, also involves the protection of that 
liberty by the punishment of any conspiracy that may 
have monopoly for its object. If such perfect free- 
dom is no longer attempted, if monopolies are per- 
mitted and fostered, it is because the unnatural strain 
to which freedom, coupled with restricted ownership, 
gives rise, the insecurity of its mere competition, the 
anarchy of its productive methods have at last prov- 
ed intolerable. 



I have already delayed more than was necessary 
in this section upon the causes which render a Capi- 
talist State essentially unstable. 

I might have treated the matter empirically, taking 
for granted the observation which all my readers 
must have made, that Capitalism is as a fact doomed, 
and that the Capitalist State has already passed into 
its first phase of transition. 

We are clearly no longer possessed of that absol- 
utely political freedom which true Capitalism essen- 
tially demands. The insecurity involved, coupled 
with the divorce between our traditional morals and 
the facts of society, have already introduced such 
novel features as the permission of conspiracy among 
both possessors and non-possessors, the compulsory 
provision of security through State action, and all 
these reforms, implicit or explicit, the tendency of 
which I am about to examine. 




nature unstable, it will tend to reach stability by 
some method or another. 

It is the definition of unstable equilibrium that 
a body in unstable equilibrium is seeking a stable 
equilibrium. For instance, a pyramid balanced upon 
its apex is in unstable equilibrium ; which simply 
means that a slight force one way or the other will 
make it fall into a position where it will repose. 
Similarly, certain chemical mixtures are said to be 
in unstable equilibrium when their constituent parts 
have such affinity one for another that a slight shock 
may make them combine and transform the chemi- 
cal arrangement of the whole. Of this sort are ex- 

If the Capitalist State is in unstable equilibrium, 
this only means that it is seeking a stable equilibrium, 
and that Capitalism cannot but be transformed into 
some other arrangementwherein Society may repose. 

There are but three social arrangements which can 
replace Capitalism : Slavery,Socialism, and Property. 

I may imagine a mixture of any two of these three 
or of all the three, but each is a dominant type, and 
from the very nature of the problem no fourth ar- 
rangement can be devised. 

The problem turns, remember, upon the control 
of the means of production. Capitalism means that 
97 7 


this control is vested in the hands of few, while poli- 
tical freedom is the appanage of all. If this anomaly 
cannot endure, from its insecurity and from its own 
contradiction with its presumed moral basis,youmust 
either have a transformation of the oneor of the other 
of the two elements which combined have been found 
unworkable. These two factors are (i) The owner- 
ship of the means of Production by a few ; (2) The 
Freedom of all. To solve Capitalism you must get 
rid of restricted ownership, or of freedom, or of both. 
Now there is only one alternative to freedom, which 
is the negation of it. Either a man is free towork and 
not to work as he pleases, or he may be liable to a 
legal compulsion to work, backed by the forces of 
the State. In the first he is a free man; in the second 
he is by definition a slave. We have, therefore, so 
far as this factor of freedom is concerned, no choice 
between a number of changes, but only the oppor- 
tunity of one, to wit, the establishment of slavery in 
place of freedom. Such a solution, the direct, im- 
mediate, and conscious re-establishment of slavery, 
would provide a true solution of the problems which 
Capitalism offers. It would guarantee, under work- 
able regulations, sufficiency and security for the dis- 
possessed. Such a solution, as I shall show, is the 
probable goal which our society will in fact approach. 
To its immediate and conscious acceptance, how- 
ever, there is an obstacle. 



A direct and conscious establishment of slavery 
as a solution to the problem of Capitalism, the sur- 
viving Christian tradition of our civilisation compels 
men to reject. No reformer will advocate it ; no pro- 
phet dares take it as yet for granted. All theories of 
a reformed society will therefore attempt, at first, to 
leave untouched the factor of Freedom among the 
elements which make up Capitalism, and will con- 
cern themselves with some change in the factor of 
Property. * 

Now, in attempting to remedy the evils of Capi- 
talism by remedying that one of its two factors which 
consists in an ill distribution of property, you have 
two, and only two, courses open to you. 

If you are suffering because property is restricted 
to a few, you can alter that factor in the problem 
either by putting property into the hands of many, or 
by putting it into the hands of none. There is no 
third course. 

In the concrete, to put property in the hands of 
" none " means to vest it as a trust in the hands of 
political officers. If you say that the evils proceeding 
from Capitalism are due to the institution of property 
itself, and not to the dispossession of the many by 
the few, then you must forbid the private possession 
of the means of production by any particular and 

* By which word "property " is meant, of course, property 
in the means of Production. 



private part of the community : but someone must 
control the means of production, or we should have 
nothing to eat. So in practice this doctrine means 
the management of the means of production by those 
who are the public officers of the community. Whe- 
ther these public officers are themselves controlled 
by the community or no has nothing to do with this 
solution on its economic side. The essential point to 
grasp is that the only alternative to private property 
is public property. Somebody must see to the plough- 
ing and must control the ploughs; otherwise no 
ploughing will be done. 

It is equally obvious that if you conclude property 
in itself to be no evil but only the small number of its 
owners, then your remedy is to increase the number 
of those owners. 

So much being grasped, we may recapitulate and 
say that a society like ours, disliking the name of 
"slavery," and avoiding a direct and conscious re- 
establishment of the slave status, will necessarily 
contemplate the reform of its ill-distributed owner- 
ship on one of two models. The first is the negation 
of private property and the establishment of what 
is called Collectivism: that is, the management of the 
means of production by the political officers of the 
community. The second is the wider distribution of 
property until that institution shall become the mark 
of the whole State, and until free citizens are nor- 



mally found to be possessors of capital or land, or 

The first model we call Socialism or the Collec- 
tivist State ; the second we call the Proprietary or 
Distributive State. 

With so much elucidated, I will proceed to show 
in my next section why the second model, involving 
the redistribution of property, is rejected as imprac- 
ticable by our existing Capitalist Society, and why, 
therefore, the model chosen by reformers is the first 
model, that of a Collectivist State. 

I shall then proceed to show that at its first in- 
ception all Collectivist Reform is necessarily de- 
flected and evolves, in the place of what it had in- 
tended, a new thing : a society wherein the owners 
remain few and wherein the proletarian mass accepts 
security at the expense of servitude. 

Have I made myself clear ? 

If not, I will repeat for the third time, and in its 
briefest terms, the formula which is the kernel of my 
whole thesis. 

The Capitalist State breeds a Collectivist Theory 
which in action produces something utterly different 
from Collectivism : to wit, the SERVILE STATE. 







ance,if it be followed, leads a Capitalist State to trans- 
form itself into a Servile State. 

I propose to show that this comes about from the 
fact that not a Distributive but a Collectivist solution 
is the easiest for a Capitalist State to aim at, and that 
yet, in the very act of attempting Collectivism, what 
results is not Collectivism at all, but the servitude of 
the many, and the confirmation in their present privi- 
lege of the few ; that is, the Servile State. 

Men to whom the institution of slavery is abhor- 
rent propose for the remedy of Capitalism one of 
two reforms. 

Either they would put property into the hands of 
most citizens, so dividing land and capital that a de- 
termining number of families in the State were pos- 
sessed of the means of production ; or they would put 
those means of production into the hands of the po- 
litical officers of the community, to be held in trust 
for the advantage of all. 

The first solution may be called the attempted 
establishment of the DISTRIBUTIVE STATE. The 
second may be called the attempted establishment 

Those who favour the first course are the Conser- 


vatives or Traditionalists. They are men who respect 
and would,if possible, preserve the old forms of Chris- 
tian European life. They know that property was 
thus distributed throughout the State during the 
happiest periods of our past history; they also know 
that where it is properly distributed to-day, you have 
greater social sanity and ease than elsewhere. In 
general, those who would re-establish, if possible, the 
Distributive State in the place of, and as a remedy 
for, the vices and unrest of Capitalism, are men con- 
cerned with known realities, and having for their ideal 
a condition of society which experience has tested 
and proved both stable and good. They are then, 
of the two schools of reformers, the more practical in 
the sense that they deal more than do the Collectiv- 
ists (called also Socialists) with things which either 
are or have been in actual existence. But they are 
less practical in another sense (as we shall see in a 
moment) from the fact that the stage of the disease 
with which they are dealing does not readily lend 
itself to such a reaction as they propose. 

The Collectivist,on the other hand, proposes to put 
land and capital into the hands of the political officers 
of the community,and this on the understanding that 
they shall hold such land and capital in trust for the 
advantage of the community. In making this pro- 
posal he is evidently dealing with a state of things 
hitherto imaginary, and his ideal is not one that has 

1 06 


been tested by experience, nor one of which our race 
and history can furnish instances. In this sense, there- 
fore, he is the less practical of the two reformers. His 
ideal cannot be discovered in any past, known, and 
recorded phase of our society. We cannot examine 
Socialism in actual working, nor can we say (as we 
can say of well-divided property): "On such andsuch 
an occasion, in such and such a period of European 
history, Collectivism was established and produced 
both stability and happiness in society." 

In this sense, therefore, the Collectivist is far less 
practical than the reformer who desires well-distri- 
buted property. 

On the other hand, there is a sense in which this 
Socialist is more practical than that other type of 
reformer, from the fact that the stage of the disease 
into which we have fallen apparently admits of his 
remedy with less shock than it admits of a reaction 
towards well-divided property. 

For example : the operation of buying out some 
great tract of private ownership to-day (as a railway 
or a harbour company) with public funds, continu- 
ing its administration by publicly paid officials and 
converting its revenue to public use, is a thing with 
which we are familiar and which seemingly might be 
indefinitely multiplied. Individual examples of such 
transformation of waterworks, gas, tramways, from a 
Capitalist to a Collectivist basis are common, and the 


change does not disturb any fundamental thing in 
our society. When a private Water company or Tram- 
way line is bought by some town and worked there- 
after in the interests of the public, the transaction is 
effected without any perceptible friction, disturbs the 
life of no private citizen, and seems in every way 
normal to the society in which it takes place. 

Upon the contrary, the attempt to create a large 
numberofshareholdersinsuchenterprisesand artifici- 
ally to substitute many partners, distributed through- 
out a great number of the population, in the place of 
the original few capitalist owners, would prove lengthy 
and at every step would arouse opposition, would 
create disturbance, would work atanexpenseof great 
friction, and would be imperilled by the power of the 
new and many owners to sell again to a few. 

In a word, the man who desires to re-establish pro- 
perty as an institution normal to most citizens in the 
State is working against the grain of our existing 
Capitalist society, while a man who desires to establish 
Socialism that is Collectivism is working with the 
grain of that society. The first is like a physician 
who should say to a man whose limbs were partially 
atrophied from disuse : " Do this ar\d that, take such 
and such exercise, and you will recover the use of 
your limbs." The second is like a physician who 
should say : " You cannot go on as you are. Your 
limbs are atrophied from lack of use. Your attempt 



to conduct yourself as though they were not is use- 
less and painful ; you had better make up your mind 
to be wheeled about in a fashion consonant to your 
disease." The Physician is the Reformer, his Patient 
the Proletariat. 

It is not the purpose of this book to show how and 
under what difficulties a condition of well-divided 
property might be restored and might take the place 
(even in England) of that Capitalism which is now 
no longer either stable or tolerable ; but for the pur- 
poses of contrast and to emphasise my argument I 
will proceed, before showing how the Collectivist un- 
consciously makes for the Servile State, to show what 
difficulties surround the Distributive solution and 
why, therefore, the Collectivist solution appeals so 
much more readily to men living under Capitalism. 

If I desire to substitute a number of small owners 
for a few large ones in some particular enterprise, 
how shall I set to work ? 

I might boldly confiscate and redistribute at a 
blow. But by what process should I choose the new 
owners ? Even supposing that there was some ma- 
chinery whereby the justice of the new distribution 
could be assured, how could I avoid the enormous 
and innumerable separate acts of injustice that would 
attach togeneral redistributions? To say "none shall 
own" and to confiscate is one thing; to say "all should 


own" and apportion ownership is another. Action of 
this kind would so disturb the whole network of eco- 
nomic relations as to bring ruin at once to the whole 
body politic, and particularly to the smaller interests 
indirectly affected. In a society such as ours a catas- 
trophe falling upon the State from outside might in- 
directly do good by making such a redistribution 
possible. But no one working from within the State 
could provoke that catastrophe without ruining his 
own cause. 

If, then, I proceed more slowly and more rationally 
and canalise the economic life of society so that small 
property shall gradually be built up within it, see 
against what forces of inertia and custom I have to 
work to-day in a Capitalist society ! 

If I desire to benefit small savings at the expense 
of large, I must reverse the whole economy under 
which interest is paid upon deposits to-day. It is far 
easier to save ;ioo out of a revenue of 1000 than 
to save 10 out of a revenue of 100. It is infinitely 
easier to save ;io out of a revenue of ^100 than 5 
out of a revenue of 50. To build up small property 
through thrift when once the Mass have fallen into the 
proletarian trough is impossible unless you deliber- 
ately subsidise small savings, offering them a reward 
which,incompetition,they could never obtain; and to 
do this the whole vast arrangement of credit must be 
worked backwards. Or, let the policy be pursued of 



penalising undertakings with few owners, of heavily 
taxing large blocks of shares and of subsidising with 
the produce small holders in proportion to the small- 
ness of their holding. Here again you are met with 
the difficulty of a vast majority who cannot even bid 
for the smallest share. 

One might multiply instances of the sort indefi- 
nitely, but the strongest force against the distribution 
of ownership in a society already permeated with 
Capitalist modes of thought is still the moral one : 
Will men want to own? Will officials, administrators, 
and law-makers be able to shake off the power which 
under Capitalism seems normal to the rich ? If I ap- 
proach, for instance, the works of one of our great 
Trusts, purchase it with public money, bestow, even 
as a gift,the shares thereof to its workmen, can I count 
upon any tradition of property in their midst which 
will prevent their squandering the new wealth? Can I 
discover any relics of the co-operative instinct among 
such men ? Could I get managers and organisers to 
take a group of poor men seriously or to serve them 
as they would serve rich men ? Is not the whole psy- 
chology of a Capitalist society divided between the 
proletarian mass which thinks in terms not of pro- 
perty but of" employment," and the few owners who 
are alone familiar with the machinery of administra- 

I have touched but very briefly and superficially 


upon this matter, because it needs no elaboration. 
Though it is evident that with a sufficient will and a 
sufficient social vitality property could be restored, 
it is evident that all efforts to restore it have in a 
Capitalist society such as our own a note of oddity, 
of doubtful experiment, of being unco-ordinated with 
other social things around them, which marks the 
heavy handicap under which any such attempt must 
proceed. It is like recommending elasticity to the 

On the other hand, the Collectivist experiment is 
thoroughly suited (in appearance at least) to the Cap- 
italist society which it proposes to replace. It works 
with the existing machinery of Capitalism, talks and % 
thinks in the existing terms of Capitalism, appeals 
to just those appetites which Capitalism has aroused, 
and ridicules as fantastic and unheard-of just those 
things in society the memory of which Capitalism 
has killed among men wherever the blight of it has 

So true is all this that the stupider kind of Col- 
lectivist will often talk of a " Capitalist phase " of 
society as the necessary precedent to a " Collectivist 
phase." A trust or monopoly is welcomed because it 
" furnishes a mode of transition from private to public 
ownership." Collectivism promises employment to 
the great mass who think of production only in terms 
of employment. It promises to its workmen the secur- 



ity which a great and well-organised industrial Capi- 
talist unit (like one of our railways) can give through 
a system of pensions, regular promotion, etc.,but that 
security vastly increased through the fact that it is 
the State and not a mere unit of the State which 
guarantees it. Collectivism would administer, would 
pay wages, would promote, would pension off, would 
fine and all the rest of it exactly as the Cap- 
italist State does to-day. The proletarian, when the 
Collectivist (or Socialist) State is put before him, per- 
ceives nothing in the picture save certain ameliora- 
tions of his present position. Who can imagine that 
if, say, two of our great industries, Coal and Railways, 
were handed over to the State to-morrow, the armies 
of men organised therein would find any change in 
the character of their lives, save in some increase of 
securityand possiblyin a very slight increase of earn- 

The whole scheme of Collectivism presents, so far 
as the proletarian mass of a Capitalist State is con- 
cerned, nothingunknown at all, but a promise of some 
increment in wages and a certainty of far greater 
ease of mind. 

Tothat small minorityof a Capitalistsociety which 
owns the means of production, Collectivism will of 
courseappear as an enemy,but,even so,it is an enemy 
which they understandand an enemy withwhom they 
can treat in terms common both to that enemy and 
113 8 


to themselves. If, for instance, the State proposes 
to take over such and such a trust now paying 4 per 
cent, and believes that under State management it 
will make the trust pay 5 per cent., then the trans- 
ference takes the form of a business proposition : the 
State is no harder to the Capitalists taken over than 
wasMrYerkestothe Underground. Again, the State, 
having greater credit and longevity, can (it would 
seem) * " buy out " any existing Capitalist body upon 
favourable terms. Again, the discipline by which the 
State would enforce its rules upon the proletariat it 
employed would be the same rules as those by which 
the Capitalist imposes discipline in his own interests 

There is in the whole scheme which proposes to 
transform the Capitalist into the Collectivist State no 
element of reaction, the use of no term with which a 
Capitalist society is not familiar, the appeal to no in- 
stinct, whether of cowardice, greed, apathy, or me- 
chanical regulation, with which a Capitalist com- 
munity is not amply familiar. 

In general, if modern Capitalist England were made 
by magic a State of small owners,we should all suffer 
an enormous revolution. We should marvel at the 
insolence of the poor, at the laziness of the contented, 
at the strange diversities of task, at the rebellious, 

* That this is an illusion I shall attempt to show on a later 



vigorous personalities discernible upon every side. 
But if this modern Capitalist England could, by a 
process sufficiently slow to allow for the readjust- 
ment of individual interests, be transformed into a 
Collectivist State, the apparent change at the end of 
that transition would not be conspicuous to the most 
of us, and the transition itself should have met with 
no shocks that theory can discover. The insecure and 
hopeless margin below the regularly paid ranks of 
labour would have disappeared into isolated work- 
places of a penal kind : we should hardly miss them. 
Many incomes now involving considerable duties to 
the State would have been replaced by incomes as 
large or larger, involving much the same duties and 
bearing only the newer name of salaries. The small 
shop-keeping class would find itself in part absorbed 
under public schemes at a salary, in part engaged in 
the old work of distribution at secure incomes ; and 
such small owners as are left, of boats, of farms, even 
of machinery, would perhaps know the new state of 
things intowhich they had survived through nothing 
more novel than some increase in the irritating sys- 
tem of inspection and of onerous petty taxation: they 
are already fairly used to both. 

This picture of the natural transition from Capi- 
talism to Collectivism seems so obvious that many 
Collectivists in a generation immediately past believ- 
ed that nothing stood between them and the realisa- 


tion of their ideal save the unintelligence of mankind. 
They had only to argue and expound patiently and 
systematically for the great transformation to become 
possible. They had only to continue arguing and ex- 
pounding for it at last to be realised. 

I say," of the last generation." To-day that simple 
and superficial judgmentisgetting woefully disturbed. 
The most sincere and single-minded of Collectivists 
cannot but note that the practical effect of their pro- 
paganda is not an approach towards the Collectivist 
State at all, but towards something very different. It 
is becoming more and more evident that with every 
new reform and those reforms commonly promoted 
by particular Socialists, and in a puzzled way blessed 
by Socialists in general another state emerges more 
and more clearly. It is becoming increasingly certain 
that the attempted transformation of Capitalism in- 
to Collectivism is resulting not in Collectivism at all, 
but in some third thing which the Collectivist never 
dreamt of, or the Capitalist either ; and that third 
thing is the SERVILE State : a State, that is, in which 
the mass of men shall be constrained by law to labour 
to the profit of a minority, but, as the price of such 
constraint, shall enjoy a security which the old Capi- 
talism did not give them. 

Why is the apparently simple and direct action of 
Collectivist reform diverted into so unexpected a 
channel? And in what new laws and institutions does 



modern England in particular and industrial society 
in general show that this new form of the State is 
upon us? 

To these two questions I will attempt an answer in 
the two concluding divisions of this book. 





how the three interests which between them account 
for nearly the whole of the forces making for social 
change in modern England are all necessarily drift- 
ing towards the Servile State. 

Of these three interests the first two represent the 
Reformers the third the people to be Reformed. 

These three interests are, first, the Socialist, who 
is the theoretical reformer working along the line of 
least resistance; secondly, the " Practical Man? who 
as a "practical " reformer depends on his shortness of 
sight, and is therefore to-day a powerful factor; while 
the third is that great proletarian mass for whom the 
change is being effected, and on whom it is being im- 
posed. What they are most likely to accept, the way 
in which they will react upon new institutions is the 
most important factor of all, for they are the material 
with and upon which the work is being done. 

(i) Of the Socialist Reformer : 

I say that men attempting to achieve Collectivism 
or Socialism as the remedy for the evils of the Capi- 
talist State find themselves drifting not towards a 
Collectivist State at all, but towards a Servile State. 

The Socialist movement, the first of the three fac- 
tors in this drift, is itself made up of two kinds 


of men : there is (a) the man who regards the public 
ownership of the means of production (and the con- 
sequent compulsion of all citizens to work under the 
direction of the State) as the only feasible solution of 
our modern social ills. There is also (b) the man who 
loves the Collectivist ideal in itself, who does not 
pursue it so much because it is a solution of modern 
Capitalism, as because it is an ordered and regular 
form of society which appeals to him in itself. He 
loves to consider the ideal of a State in which land 
and capital shall be held by public officials who shall 
order other men about and so preserve them from 
the consequences of their vice, ignorance, and folly. 

These types are perfectlydistinct, in many respects 
antagonistic, and between them they cover the whole 
Socialist movement. 

Now imagine either of these men at issue with the 
existing state of Capitalist society and attempting to 
transform it. Along what line of least resistance will 
either be led ? 

(a) The first type will begin bydemanding the con- 
fiscation of the means of production from the hands 
of their present owners,and the vesting of them in the 
State. But wait a moment. That demand is an ex- 
ceedingly hard thing to accomplish. The present 
owners have between them and confiscation a stony 
moral barrier. It is what most men would call the 
moral basis of property (the instinct that property is 



a right), and what all men would admit to be at least 
a deeply rooted tradition. Again, they have behind 
them the innumerable complexities of modern own- 

To take a very simple case. Decree that all com- 
mon lands enclosed since so late a date as 1760 shall 
revert to the public. There you have a very moder- 
ate case and a very defensible one. But conceive for 
a moment how many small freeholds, what a nexus 
of obligation and benefit spread over millions, what 
thousands of exchanges, what purchases made upon 
the difficult savings of small men such a measure 
would wreck ! It is conceivable, for, in the moral 
sphere, society can do anything to society ; but it 
would bring crashing down with it twenty times the 
wealth involved and all the secure credit of our com- 
munity. In a word, the thing is, in the conversa- 
tional use of that term, impossible. So your best type 
of Socialist reformer is led to an expedient which I 
will here only mention as it must be separately con- 
sidered at length later on account of its fundamental 
importance the expedient of " buying out" the pre- 
sent owner. 

It is enough to say in this place that the attempt 
to " buy out " without confiscation is based upon an 
economic error. This I shall prove in its proper 
place. For the moment I assume it and pass on to 
the rest of my reformer's action. 


He does not confiscate, then ; at the most he " buys 
out" (or attempts to "buy out") certain sections of 
the means of production. 

But this action by no means covers the whole of 
his motive. By definition the man is out to cure what 
he sees to be the great immediate evils of Capitalist 
society. He is out to cure the destitution which it 
causes in great multitudes and the harrowing in- 
security which it imposes upon all. He is out to sub- 
stitute for Capitalist society a society in which men 
shall all be fed, clothed, housed, and in which men 
shall not live in a perpetual jeopardy of their hous- 
ing, clothing, and food. 

Well, there is a way of achieving that without 

This reformer rightly thinks that the ownership 
of the means of production by a few has caused the 
evils which arouse his indignation and pity. But they 
have only been so caused on account of a combina- 
tion of such limited ownership with universal free- 
dom. The combination of the two is the very defini- 
tion of the Capitalist State. It is difficult indeed to 
dispossess the possessors. It is by no means so diffi- 
cult (as we shall see again when we are dealing with 
the mass whom these changes will principally affect) 
to modify the factor of freedom. 

You can say to the Capitalist : " I desire to dis- 



possess you, and meanwhile I am determined that 
your employees shall live tolerable lives." The Capi- 
talist replies : " I refuse to be dispossessed, and it is, 
short of catastrophe, impossible to dispossess me. 
But if you will define the relation between my em- 
ployees and myself, I will undertake particular re- 
sponsibilities due to my position. Subject the prole- 
tarian, as a proletarian, and because he is a proletarian, 
to special laws. Clothe me, the Capitalist, as a Capi- 
talist, and because I am a Capitalist, with special 
converse duties under those laws. I will faithfully 
see that they areobeyed; I will compel my employees 
to obey them, and I will undertake the new role im- 
posed upon me by the State. Nay, T will go further, 
and I will say that such a novel arrangement will 
make my own profits perhaps larger and certainly 
more secure." 

This idealist social reformer, therefore, finds the 
current of his demand canalised. As to one part of 
it, confiscation, it is checked and barred ; as to the 
other, securing human conditions for the proletariat, 
the gates are open. Half the river is dammed by a 
strong weir, but there is a sluice, and that sluice can 
be lifted. Once lifted, the whole force of the current 
will run through the opportunity so afforded it; there 
will it scour and deepen its channel ; there will the 
main stream learn to run. 

To drop the metaphor, all those things in the true 


Socialist's demand which are compatible with the 
Servile State can certainly be achieved. The first 
steps towards them are already achieved. They are 
of such a nature that upon them can be based a 
further advance in the same direction, and the whole 
Capitalist State can be rapidly and easily transformed 
into the Servile State, satisfying in its transforma- 
tion the more immediate claims and the more urgent 
demands of the social reformer whose ultimate ob- 
jective indeed may be the public ownership of capi- 
tal and land, but whose driving power is a burning 
pity for the poverty and peril of the masses. 

When the transformation is complete there will 
be no ground left, nor any demand or necessity, for 
public ownership. The reformer only asked for it 
in order to secure security and sufficiency : he has 
obtained his demand. 

Here are security and sufficiency achieved by an- 
other and much easier method, consonant with and 
proceeding from the Capitalist phase immediately 
preceding it : there is no need to go further. 

In this way the Socialist whose motive is human 
good and not mere organisation is being shepherded 
in spite of himself away from his Collectivist ideal 
and towards a society in which the possessors shall 
remain possessed, the dispossessed shall remain dis- 
possessed, in which the mass of men shall still work 
for the advantage of a few, and in which those few 



shall still enjoythe surplus values produced by labour, 
but in which the special evils of insecurity and in- 
sufficiency, in the main the product of freedom, have 
been eliminated by the destruction of freedom. 

At the end of the process you will have two kinds 
of men, the owners economically free, and control- 
ling to their peace and to the guarantee of their liveli- 
hood the economically unfree non-owners. But that 
is the Servile State. 

(b) The second type of socialist reformer may be 
dealt with more briefly. In him the exploitation of 
man by man excites no indignation. Indeed, he is 
not of a type to which indignation or any other lively 
passion is familiar. Tables, statistics, an exact frame- 
work for life these afford him the food that satisfies 
his moral apetite ; the occupation most congenial to 
him is the "running" of men : as a machine is run. 

To such a man the Collectivist ideal particularly 

It is orderly in the extreme. All that human and 
organic complexity which is the colour of any vital 
society offends himbyitsinfinite differentiation. Heis 
disturbed by multitudinous things; and the prospect 
of a vast bureaucracy wherein the whole of life shall 
be scheduled and appointed tocertainsimpleschemes 
deriving from the co-ordinate work of public clerks 
and marshalled by powerful heads of departments 


gives his small stomach a final satisfaction. 

Now this man, like the other, would prefer to begin 
with public property in capital and land, and upon 
that basis to erect the formal scheme which so suits 
his peculiar temperament. (It need hardly be said 
that in his vision of a future society he conceives of 
himself as the head of at least a department and pos- 
sibly of the whole State but that is by the way.) But 
while he would prefer to begin with a Collectivist 
scheme ready-made, he finds in practice that he can- 
notdoso. Hewould havetoconfiscatejustas themore 
hearty Socialist would; and if that act is very difficult 
to the man burning at thesight of human 
much more difficult is it to a man impelled by no such 
motive force and directed by nothing more intense 
than a mechanical appetite for regulation ? 

He cannot confiscate or begin to confiscate. At the 
best he will " buy out " the Capitalist. 

Now, in his case, as in the case of the more human 
Socialist, " buying out " is, as I shall show in its pro- 
per place, a system impossible of general application. 

But all thoseother things for which such a man cares 
much more than he does for the socialisation of the 
means of production tabulation, detailed adminis- 
tration of men, the co-ordination of many efforts un- 
der one schedule, the elimination of all private power 
to react against his Department, all these are im- 
mediately obtainable without disturbing the existing 



arrangement of society. With him, precisely as with 
the other socialist, what he desires can be reached with- 
out any dispossession of the few existing possessors. 
He has but to secure the registration of the proleta- 
riat; next to ensure that neither they in the exercise 
of their freedom, nor the employer in the exercise 
of his,can produce insufficiency orinsecurity and he 
is content. Let laws exist which make the proper 
housing, feeding, clothing, and recreation of the pro- 
letarian massbeincumbent upon the possessing class, 
and the observance of such rules be imposed, by in- 
spection and punishment, upon those whom he pre- 
tends to benefit, and all that he really cares for will 
be achieved. 

To such a man the Servile State is hardly a thing 
towards which he drifts, it is rather a tolerable alter- 
native to his ideal Collectivist State, which alternative 
he is quite prepared to accept and regards favourab- 
ly. Already the greater part of such reformers who, 
a generation ago, would have called themselves "So- 
cialists " are now less concerned with any scheme for 
socialising Capital and Land than with innumerable 
schemes actually existing, some of them possessing 
already the force of laws, for regulating, " running," 
and drilling the protelariat without trenching by an 
inch uponthe privilegeinimplements,stores,andland 
enjoyed by the small Capitalist class. 

The so-called " Socialist " of this type has not fall- 
129 9 


en into the Servile State by a miscalculation. He has 
fathered it; he welcomes its birth, he foresees his pow- 
er over its future. 

So much for the Socialist movement, which a gen- 
eration ago proposed to transform our Capitalist so- 
ciety into one where the community should be the 
universal owner and all men equally economically 
free or unfree under its tutelage. To-day their ideal 
has failed, and of the two sources whence their energy 
proceeded, the one is reluctantly, the other gladly, 
acquiescent in the advent of a society which is not So- 
cialist at all but Servile. 

(2) Of the Practical Reformer : 

There is another type of Reformer, one who prides 
himself on not being a socialist, and one of the great- 
est weight to-day. He also is making for the Ser- 
vile State. This second factor in the change is the 
" Practical Man " ; and this fool, on account of his 
great numbers and determining influence in the de- 
tails of legislation, must be carefully examined. 

It is your " Practical Man " who says : " Whatever 
you theorists and doctrinaires may hold with regard 
to this proposal (which I support),though it may offend 
some abstractdogmaofyours,yet*/nz/zV you must 
admit that it does good. If you had practical experi- 
ence of the misery of the Jones' family, or had done 



practical work yourself in Pudsey, you would have 
seen that a practical man," etc. 

It is not difficult to discern that the Practical Man 
in social reform is exactly the same animal as the 
Practical Man in every other department of human 
energy, and may bediscovered suffering from thesame 
twin disabilities whichstampthePractical Man where- 
ever found : these twin disabilities are an inability to 
define his own first principles and an inabilityto follow 
the consequences proceeding from his own action. 
Both these disabilities proceed from one simple and 
deplorable form of impotence, the inability to think. 

Let us help the Practical Man in his weakness and 
do a little thinking for him. 

As a social reformer he has of course (though he 
does not know it) first principles and dogmas like all 
the rest of us, and his first principles and dogmas are 
exactly the same as those which his intellectual su- 
periors hold in the matter of social reform. The two 
things intolerable to him as a decent citizen (though 
a very stupid human being) are insufficiency and in- 
security. When he was " working " in the slums of 
Pudsey or raiding the proletarian Jones's from the 
secure base of Toy nbee Hall, what shocked the worthy 
man most was "unemployment" and " destitution " : 
that is, insecurityand insufficiency in flesh and blood. 

Now, if the Socialist who has thought out his case, 
whether as a mere organiser or as a man hungering 


and thirsting after justice, is led away from Socialism 
and towards the Servile State by the force of modern 
things in England, how much more easily do you not 
think the "Practical Man" will be conducted towards 
that same Servile State,like any donkey tohis grazing 
ground ? To those dull and short-sighted eyes the 
immediate solution which even the beginnings of the 
Servile State propose are what a declivity is to a piece 
of brainless matter. The piece of brainless matter rolls 
down the declivity, and the Practical Man lollops from 
Capitalism to the Servile State with the same inevi- 
table ease. Jones has not got enough. If you give 
him something in charity, that something will be soon 
consumed, and then Jones will again not have enough. 
Jones has been seven weeks out of work. If you get 
him work "underourunorganised and wastefulsystem, 
etc.," he may lose it just as he lost his first jobs. The the Practical Man knowsby Practi- 
cal experience, are often unemployable. Then there 
are "the ravages of drink" : more fatal still the dread- 
ful habitmankindhasofformingfamiliesandbreeding 
children. The worthy fellow notes that "as a practical 
matter of fact such men do not work unless you make 

He does not, because he cannot, co-ordinate all 
these things. He knows nothing of a society in which 
free men were once owners, nor of the co-operative 
and instinctive institutions for the protection of own- 



ership which such a society spontaneously breeds. He 
"takes the world as he finds it" and the consequence 
is that whereas men of greater capacity may admit 
with different degrees of reluctance the general prin- 
ciples of the Servile State,^,the Practical Man, posi- 
tively gloats on every new detail in the building up 
of that form of society. And the destruction of free- 
dom by inches (though he does not see it to be the 
destruction of freedom) is the one panacea so obvious 
that he marvels at the doctrinaires who resist or sus- 
pect the process. 

It has been necessary to waste so much time on 
this deplorable individual because the circumstances 
of our generation give him a peculiar power. Under 
the conditions of modern exchangeaman of that sort 
enjoys great advantages. He is to be found as he 
never was in any other society before our own, possess- 
ed of wealth, and political as never was any such citizen 
until our time. Of history with all its lessons ; of the 
great schemes of philosophy and religion, of human 
nature itself he is blank. 

The Practical Man left to himself would not pro- 
duce the Servile State. He would not produce any- 
thingbutawelter of anarchic restrictions which would 
lead at last to some kind of revolt. 

Unfortunately, he is not left to himself. He is but 
the ally or flanking party of great forces which he 
does nothing to oppose, and of particular men, able 


and prepared for the work of general change, who use 
him with gratitude and contempt. Were he not so 
numerous in modern England, and, under the extra- 
ordinary conditions of a Capitalist State, so economi- 
cally powerful, I would have neglected him in this 
analysis. As it is, we may console ourselves by remem- 
bering that the advent of the Servile State, with its 
powerful organisation and necessity for lucid thought 
in those who govern, will certainly eliminate him. 

Ourreformers,then,both thosewhothinkand those 
who do not, both those who are conscious of the pro r 
cess and those who are unconscious of it, are making 
directly for the Servile State. 

(3) What of the third factor ? What of the people 
about to be reformed ? What of the millions upon 
whose carcasses the reformers are at work, and who 
are the subject of the great experiment ? Do they 
tend, as material, to accept or to reject that transfor- 
mation from free proletarianism to servitude which 
is the argument of this book ? 

The question isanimportant onetodecide,forupon 
whether the material is suitable or unsuitable for the 
work to which it is subjected, depends the success of 
every experiment making for the Servile State. 



The mass of men in the Capitalist State is prole- 
tarian. As a matter of definition, the actual number 
oftheproletariatandtheproportion that number bears 
to the total number of families in the State may vary, 
but must be sufficient to determine the general char- 
acter of the State before we can call that State Capi- 

But, as we have seen, the Capitalist State is not a 
stable, and therefore not a permanent, condition of 
society. It has proved ephemeral ; and upon that very 
account the proletariat in any Capitalist State retains 
to a greater or less degree some memories of a state 
of society in which its ancestors were possessors of 
property and economically free. 

The strength of this memoryor tradition is thefirst 
elementwe have to bear in mindinour problem, when 
we examine how far a particular proletariat, such as 
the English proletariat to-day, is ready to accept the 
Servile State, which would condemn it to a perpetual 
loss of property and of all the free habit which pro- 
perty engenders. 

Next be it noted that under conditions of freedom 
the Capitalist class may be entered by the more cun- 
ning or the more fortunate of the proletariat class. 
Recruitment of the kind was originally sufficiently 
common in the first development of Capitalism to be 
a standing feature in society and to impress the im- 
agination of the general. Such recruitment is still 


possible. The proportion which it bears to the whole 
proletariat, thechance which each member of the pro- 
letariat may think he has of escaping from his pro- 
letarian condition in a particular phase of Capitalism 
such as is ours to-day, is the second factor in the pro- 

The third factor, and by far the greatest of all, is 
the appetite of the dispossessed for that security and 
sufficiency of whichCapitalism, withits essential con- 
dition of freedom, has deprived them. 

Now let us consider the interplay of these three 
factors in the English proletariat as we actually know 
it at this moment. That proletariat is certainly the, 
great mass of the State : it covers about nineteen- 
twentieths of the population if we exclude Ireland, 
where, as I shall point out in my concluding pages, 
the reaction against Capitalism,andthereforeagainst 
its development towards a Servile State, is already 

As to the first factor, it has changed very rapidly 
within the memory of men now living. The tradi- 
tional rights of property are still strong in the minds 
of the English poor. All the moral connotations of 
that right are familiar to them. They are familiar 
with the conception of theft as a wrong; they are ten- 
acious of any scraps of property which they may ac- 
quire. They could all explain what is meant by owner- 



ship, by legacy, by exchange, and by gift, and even 
by contract. There is not one but could put himself 
in the position, mentally, of an owner. 

But the actual experience of ownership, and the 
effect which that experience has upon character and 
upon one's view of the State is a very different matter. 
Within the memory of people still living a sufficient 
number of Englishmen were owning (as small free- 
holders, small masters, etc.) to give to the institution 
of property coupled with freedom a very vivid effect 
upon the popular mind. More than this, there was a 
living tradition proceeding from the lips of men who 
couldstill bear living testimony to therelics of abetter 
state of things. I have myself spoken, when I was a 
boy, to old labourers intheneighbourhood of Oxford 
who had risked their skins in armed protest against 
the enclosure of certain commons, and who had of 
course suffered imprisonment by a wealthy judge as 
the reward of their courage; and I have my self spoken 
in Lancashire to old men who could retrace for me, 
either from their personal experience the last phases 
of small ownership in the textile trade, or, from what 
their fathers had told them, the conditions of a time 
when small and well-divided ownership in cottage 
looms was actually common. 

All that has passed. The last chapter of its passage 
has been singularly rapid. Roughly speaking, it is 
the generation brought up under the Education Acts 


of the last forty years which has grown up definitely 
and hopelessly proletarian. The present instinct.use, 
and meaning of property is lost to it : and this has 
had two very powerful effects,each strongly inclining 
our modern wage-earners to ignore the old barriers 
which lay between a condition of servitude and a con- 
dition of freedom. The first effect is this : that pro- 
perty is no longerwhat they seek, nor what they think 
obtainable for themselves. The second effect is that 
they regard the possessors of property as a class apart, 
whom they always must ultimately obey, often envy, 
and sometimes hate ; whose moral right to so singu- 
lar a position most of them would hesitate to concede, 
and many of them would nowstrongly deny, but whose 
position they, at any rate, accept as a known and per- 
manent social fact, the origins of which they have for- 
gotten, and the foundations of which they believe to 
be immemorial. 

To sum up : The attitude of the proletariat in Eng- 
land to-day (the attitude of the overwhelming ma- 
jority, that is, of English families) towards property 
and towards that freedom which is alone obtainable 
through property is no longer an attitude of experi- 
ence or of expectation. They think of themselves as 
wage-earners. To increase the weekly stipend of the 
wage-earner is an object which they vividly appreci- 
ate and pursue. To make him cease to be a wage- 
earner is an object that would seem to them entirely 



outside the realities of life. 

What of the second factor, the gambling chance 
which the Capitalist system, with its necessary con- 
dition of freedom, of the legal power to bargain fully, 
and so forth, permits to the proletarian of escaping 
from his proletariat surroundings ? 

Of this gambling chance and the effect it has upon 
men's minds we may say that, while it has not dis- 
appeared, it has very greatly lost in force during 
the last forty years. One often meets men who tell 
one, whether they are speaking in defence of or a- 
gainst the Capitalist system, that it still blinds the 
proletarian to any common consciousness of class, 
because the proletarian still has the example before 
him of members of his class, whom he has known, 
rising (usuallyby various forms of villainy) to the posi- 
tion of capitalist. But when one goes down among 
the working men themselves, one discovers that the 
hope of such a change in the mind of any individual 
worker is now exceedingly remote. Millions of men 
in great groups of industry, notably in the transport 
industry and in the mines, have quite given up such 
an expectation. Tiny as the chance ever was, exag- 
gerated as the hopes in a lottery always are, that tiny 
chance has fallen in the general opinion of the workers 
to be negligible, and that hope which a lottery breeds 
is extinguished. The proletarian now regards him- 
self as definitely proletarian, nor destined within hu- 



man likelihood to be anything but proletarian. 

These two factors, then, the memory of an older 
condition of economic freedom, and the effect of a 
hope individuals might entertain of escaping from 
the wage-earning class, the two factors which might 
act most strongly against the acceptation of the Ser- 
vile State by that class, have so fallen in value that 
they offer but little opposition to the third factor in 
the situation which is making so strongly for the 
Servile State, and which consists in the necessity all 
men acutely feel for sufficiency and for security. It 
is this third factor alone which need be seriously con- 
sidered to-day, when we ask ourselves how far the 
material upon which social reform is working, that 
is, the masses of the people, may be ready to accept 
the change. 

The thing may be put in many ways. I will put 
it in what I believe to be the most conclusive of all. 

If you were to approach those millions of families 
now living at a wage, with the proposal for a contract 
of service for life, guaranteeing them employment at 
what each regarded as his usual full wage, how many 
would refuse ? 

Such a contract would, of course, involve a loss of 
freedom: a life-contract of the kind is, to be accurate, 
no contract at all. It is the negation of contract and 
the acceptation of status. It would lay the man that 



undertook it under an obligation of forced labour, 
coterminous and coincident with his power to labour. 
It would be a permanent renunciation of his right (if 
such a right exists) to the surplus values created by 
his labour. If we ask ourselves how many men, or 
rather how manyfamilies, would prefer freedom(with 
its accompanimentsof certain insecurity and possible 
insufficiency) to such a life-contract, no one can deny 
that the answer is : " Very few would refuse it." That 
is the key to the whole matter. 

What proportion would refuse it no one can de- 
termine ; but I say that even as a voluntary offer, and 
not as a compulsory obligation, a contract of this sort 
which would for the future destroy contract and re- 
erect status of a servile sort would be thought a boon 
by the mass of the proletariat to-day. 

Now take the truth from another aspect by con- 
sidering it thus from one point of view and from 
another we can appreciate it best Of what are the 
mass of men now most afraid in a Capitalist State ? 
Not of the punishments that can be inflicted by a 
Court of Law, but of " the sack." 

You may ask a man why he does not resist such 
and such a legal infamy; why he permits himself to 
be the victim of fines and deductions from which the 
Truck Acts specifically protect him ; why he cannot 
assert his opinion in this or that matter ; why he has 
accepted, without a blow, such and such an insult. 


Some generations ago a man challenged to tell you 
why he forswore his manhood in any particular re- 
gard would have answered you that it was because 
he feared punishment at the hands of the law ; to-day 
he will tell you that it is because he fears unemploy- 

Private law has for the second time in our long 
European story overcome public law,and thesanctions 
which the Capitalist can call to the aid of his private 
rule,by the action of his private will, are stronger than 
those which the public Courts can impose. 

In the seventeenth century a man feared to go to 
Mass lest the judges should punish him. To-day a, 
man fears to speak in favour of some social theory 
which he holds to be just and true lest his master 
should punish him. To deny the rule of public powers 
once involved public punishments which most men 
dreaded, though some stood out. To deny the rule of 
private powers involves to-day a private punishment 
against the threat of which very few indeed dare to 
stand out. 

Look at the matter from yet another aspect. A law 
is passed (let us suppose) which increases the total 
revenue of a wage-earner, or guarantees him against 
the insecurity of his position in some small degree. 
The administration of that law requires, upon the one 
hand, a close inquisition into the man's circumstances 
by public officials, and, upon the other hand, the ad- 



ministration of its benefits by that particular Capi- 
talist or group of Capitalists whom the wage-earner 
serves to enrich. Do the Servile conditions attaching 
to this material benefit prevent a proletarian in Eng- 
land to-day from preferring the benefit to freedom ? 
It is notorious that they do not. 

No matter from what angle you approach the busi- 
ness, the truth is always the same. That great mass 
of wage-earners upon which our society now reposes 
understands as a present good all that will increase 
even to some small amount their present revenue 
and all that may guarantee them against those perils 
of insecurity to which they are perpetually subject. 
They understand and welcome a good of this kind, 
and they are perfectly willing to pay for that good 
the corresponding price of control and enregimen- 
tation, exercised in gradually increasing degree by 
those who are their paymasters. 

It would be easy by substituting superficial for 
fundamental things, or even by proposing certain 
terms and phrases to be used in the place of terms 
and phrases now current it would be easy, I say, by 
such methods to ridicule or to oppose theprimetruths 
which I am here submitting. They none the less re- 
main truths. 

Substitute for the term " employee " in one of our 
new laws the term " serf," even do so mild a thing as 



to substitute the traditional term " master " for the 
word " employer," and the blunt words might breed 
revolt. Impose of a sudden the full conditions of a 
Servile State upon modern England, and it would 
certainly breed revolt But my point is that when 
the foundations of the thing have to be laid and the 
first great steps taken, there is no revolt; on the con- 
trary, there is acquiescence and for the most part 
gratitude upon the part of the poor. After the long 
terrors imposed upon them through a freedom unac- 
companied by property, they see, at the expense of 
losing a mere legal freedom, the very real prospect 
of having enough and not losing it. 

All forces, then, are making for the Servile State 
in this the final phase of our evil Capitalist society 
in England. The generous reformer is canalised to- 
wards it ; the ungenerous one finds it a very mirror 
of his ideal ; the herd of " practical " men meet at 
every stage in its inception the " practical " steps 
which they expected and demanded ; while that pro- 
letarian mass upon whom the experiment is being 
tried have lost the tradition of property and of free- 
dom which might resist the change, and are most 
powerfully inclined to its acceptance by the positive 
benefits which it confers. 

It may be objected that however true all this may 
be, no one can, upon such theoretical grounds, regard 
the Servile State as something really approaching 



us. We need not believe in its advent (we shall be 
told) until we see the first effects of its action. 

To this I answer that the first effects of its action 
are already apparent The Servile State is, in indus- 
trial England to-day, no longer a menace but some- 
thing in actual existence. It is in process of con- 
struction. The first main lines of it are already plotted 
out ; the corner-stone of it is already laid. 

To see the truth of this it is enough to consider 
laws and projects of law, the first of which we already 
enjoy, while the last will pass from project to posi- 
tive statute in due process of time. 


There is an impression abroad among those who pro- 
pose to expropriate the Capitalist class for the benefit of 
the State, but who appreciate the difficulties in the way of 
direct confiscation, that by spreading the process over a 
sufficient number of years and pursuing it after a certain 
fashion bearing all the outward appearances of a purchase, 
the expropriation could be effected without the conse- 
quences and attendant difficulties of direct confiscation. 
In other words, there is an impression that the State could 
" buy-out " the Capitalist class without their knowing it, 
and that in a sort of painless way this class can be slowly 
conjured out of existence. 

The impression is held in a confused fashion by most 
of those who cherish it, and will not bear a clear analysis. 
145 10 


It is impossible by any jugglery to "buy-out" the univer- 
sality of the means of production without confiscation. 

To prove this, consider a concrete case which puts the 
problem in the simplest terms : 

A community of twenty-two families lives upon the pro- 
duce of two farms, the property of only two families out 
of that twenty-two. 

The remaining twenty families are Proletarian. The 
two families, with their ploughs, stores, land, etc., are 

The labour of the twenty proletarian families applied to 
the land and capital of these two capitalist families pro- 
duces 300 measures of wheat, of which 200 measures, or 
10 measures each, form the annual support of the twenty 
proletarian families ; the remaining 100 measures are the 
surplus value retained as rent, interest, and profit by the 
two Capitalist families, each of which has thus a yearly 
income of 50 measures. 

The State proposes to produce, after a certain length 
of time, a condition of affairs such that the surplus values 
shall no longer go to the two Capitalist families, but shall 
be distributed to the advantage of the whole community, 
while it, the State, shall itself become the unembarrassed 
owner of both farms. 

Now capital is accumulated with the object of a certain 
return as the reward of accumulation. Instead of spend- 
ing his money, a man saves it with the object of retaining 
as the result of that saving a certain yearly revenue. The 
measure of this does not fall in a particular society at a 
particular time below a certain level. In other words, if 
a man cannot get a certain minimum reward for his ac- 
cumulation, he will not accumulate but spend. 

What is called in economics " The Law of Diminishing 



Returns " acts so that continual additions to capital, other 
things being equal (that is, the methods of production re- 
maining the same), do not provide a corresponding increase 
of revenue. A thousand measures of capital applied to a 
particular area of natural forces will produce, for instance, 
40 measures yearly, or 4 per cent. ; but 2000 measures 
applied in the same fashion will not produce 80 meas- 
ures. They will produce more than the thousand measures 
did, but not more in proportion ; not double. They will 
produce, say, 60 measures, or 3 per cent., upon the cap- 
ital. The action of this universal principle automatically 
checks the accumulation of capital when it has reached 
such a point that the proportionate return is the least 
which a man will accept. If it falls below that he will 
spend rather than accumulate. The limit of this mini- 
mum in any particular society at any particular time gives 
the measure to what we call "the Effective Desire of Ac- 
cumulation." Thus in England to-day it is a little over 3 
per cent. The minimum which limits the accumulation of 
capital is a mimimum return of about one-thirtieth yearly 
upon such capital, and this we may call for shortness the 
" E.D.A." of our society at the present time. 

When, therefore, the Capitalist estimates the full value 
of his possessions, he counts them in "so many years' pur- 
chase."* And that means that he is willing to take in a 
lump sum down for his possessions so many times the year- 
ly revenue which he at present enjoys. If his E.D.A. is 

* By an illusion which clever statesmanship could use to the advan- 
tage of the community, he even estimates the natural forces he con- 
trols (which need no accumulation, but are always present) on the 
analogy of his capital, and will part with them at " so many years' 
purchase." It is by taking advantage of this illusion that land pur- 
chase schemes (as in Ireland) happily work to the advantage of the 



one-thirtieth, he will take a lump sum representing thirty 
times his annual revenue. 

So far so good. Let us suppose the two Capitalists in 
our example to have an E.D.A. of one-thirtieth. They 
will sell to the State if the State can put up 3000 measures 
of wheat. 

Now, of course, the State can do nothing of the kind. 
The accumulations of wheat being already in the hands 
of the Capitalists, and those accumulations amounting to 
much less than 3000 measures of wheat, the thing appears 
to be a deadlock. 

But it is not a deadlock if the Capitalist is a fool. The 
State can go to the Capitalists and say : " Hand me over 
your farms, and against them I will give you guarantee 
that you shall be paid rather more than 100 measures of 
wheat a year for the thirty years. In fact, I will pay you 
half as much again until these extra payments amount to 
a purchase of your original stock." 

Out of what does this extra amount come ? Out of the 
State's power to tax. 

The State can levy a tax upon the profits of both Cap- 
italists A and B, and pay them the extra with their own 

In so simple an example it is evident that this " ringing 
of the changes " would be spotted by the victims, and that 
they would bring against it precisely the same forces which 
they would bring against the much simpler and more 
straightforward process of immediate confiscation. 

But it is argued that in a complex State, where you are 
dealing with myriads of individual Capitalists and thou- 
sands of particular forms of profit, the process can be 

There are two ways in which the State can mask its 



action (according to this policy). It can buy out first one 
small area of land and capital out of the general taxation 
and then another, and then another, until the whole has 
been transferred ; or it can tax with peculiar severity certain 
trades which the rest who are left immune will abandon to 
their ruin, and with the general taxation plus this special 
taxation buy out those unfortunate trades which will, of 
course, have sunk heavily in value under the attack. 

The second of these tricks will soon be apparent in any 
society, however complex; for after one unpopular trade 
had been selected for attack the trying on of the same me- 
thods in another less unpopular field will at once rouse sus- 

The first method, however, might have some chance of 
success, at least for a long time after it was begun, in a 
highly complex and numerous society were it not for a 
certain check which comes in of itself. That check is the 
fact that the Capitalist only takes more than his old yearly 
revenue with the object of reinvesting the surplus. 

I have a thousand pounds in Brighton railway stock, 
yielding me 3 per cent. : ^30 a year. The Government 
asks me to exchange my bit of paper against another bit 
of paper guaranteeing the payment of ^50 a year, that is, 
an extra rate a year, for so many years as will represent 
over and above the regular interest paid a purchase of my 
stock. The Government's bit of paper promises to pay to 
the holder ^50 a year for, say, thirty-eight years. I am 
delighted to make the exchange, not because I am such a 
fool as to enjoy the prospect of my property being extin- 
guished at the end of thirty-eight years, but because I hope 

* Thus you can raid the brewers in a society half-Puritan where 
brewing is thought immoral by many, but proceed to railway stock 
and it will be a very different matter. 



to be able to reinvest the extra 20 every year in some- 
thing else that will bring me in 3 per cent. Thus, at the 
end of the thirty-eight years I shall (or my heirs) be better 
off than I was at the beginning of the transaction, and I 
shall have enjoyed during its maturing my old ^30 a year 
all the same. 

The State can purchase thus on a small scale by subsi- 
dising purchase out of the general taxation. It can, there- 
fore, play this trick over a small area and for a short time 
with success. But the moment this area passes a very nar- 
row limit the " market for investment " is found to be re- 
stricted, Capital automatically takes alarm, the State can no 
longer offer its paper guarantees save at an enhanced price. 
If it tries to turn the position by further raising taxation to 
what Capital regards as " confiscatory " rates, there will be 
opposed to its action just the same forces as would be op- 
posed to frank and open expropriation. 

The matter is one of plain arithmetic, and all the con- 
fusion introduced by the complex mechanism of "finance " 
can no more change the fundamental and arithmetical prin- 
ciples involved than can the accumulation of triangles in an 
ordnance survey reduce the internal angles of the largest 
triangle to less than 180 degrees.* In fine: if you desire 
to confiscate, you must confiscate. 

You cannot outflank the enemy, as Financiers in the city 
and sharpers on the race-course outflank the simpler of 
mankind, nor can you conduct the general process of expro- 
priation upon a muddle-headed hope that somehow or other 
something will come out of nothing in the end. 

There are, indeed, two ways in which the State could ex- 

* In using this metaphor I at once record my apologies to those 
who believe in elliptical and hyperbolic universes, and confess myself 
an old-fashioned parabolist. Further, I admit that the triangles in 
question are spherical. 



propriate without meeting the resistance that must be pres- 
ent against any attempt at confiscation. But the first of 
these ways is precarious, the second insufficient. 

They are as follows : 

(i) The State can promise the Capitalist a larger yearly 
revenue than he is getting in the expectation that it, the 
State, can manage the business better than the Capitalist, 
or that some future expansion will come to its aid. In other 
words, if the State makes a bigger profit out of the thing than 
the Capitalist, it can buy out the Capitalist just as a private 
individual with a similar business proposition can buy him 

But the converse of this is that if the State has calculated 
badly, or has bad luck, it would find itself endowing the 
Capitalists of the future instead of gradually extinguishing 

In this fashion the State could have "socialised " without 
confiscation the railways of this country if it had taken them 
over fifty years ago, promising the then owners more than 
they were then obtaining. But if it had socialised the han- 
som cab in the nineties, it would now be supporting in per- 
petuity that worthy but extinct type the cab-owner (and his 
children for ever) at the expense of the community. 

The second way in which the State can expropriate with- 
out confiscation is by annuity. It can say to such Capital- 
ists as have no heirs or care little for their fate if they have : 
" You have only got so much time to live and to enjoy your 
30, will you take ^50 until you die?" Upon the bar- 
gain being accepted the State will, in process of time, though 
not immediately upon the death of the annuitant, become 
an unembarrassed owner of what had been the annuitant's 
share in the means of production. But the area over which 
this method can be exercised is a very small one. It is not 


of itself a sufficient instrument for the expropriation of any 
considerable field. 

I need hardly add that as a matter of fact the so-called 
" Socialist " and confiscatory measures of our time have 
nothing to do with the problem here discussed. The State 
is indeed confiscating, that is, it is taxing in many cases in 
such a fashion as to impoverish the tax-payer and is lessen- 
ing his capital rather than shearing his income. But it is 
not putting the proceeds into the means of production. It 
is either usingthem for immediateconsumptionin the shape 
of new official salaries or handing them over to another set 
of Capitalists.* 

But these practical considerations of the way in which 
sham Socialist experiments are working belong rather to 
my next section, in which I shall deal with the actual be- 
ginnings of the Servile State in our midst. 

* Thus the money levied upon the death of some not very wealthy 
squire and represented by, say, locomotives in the Argentine, turns 
into two miles of palings for the pleasant back gardens of a thousand 
new officials under the Inebriates Bill, or is simply handed over to the 
shareholders of the Prudential under the Insurance Act. In the first 
case the locomotives have been given back to the Argentine, and 
after a long series of exchanges have been bartered against a great 
number of wood -palings from the Baltic not exactly reproductive 
wealth. In the second case the locomotives which used to be the 
squire's hands become, or their equivalent becomes, means of produc- 
tion in the hands of the Sassoons. 





deal with the actual appearance of the Servile State 
in certain laws and proposals now familiar to the 
Industrial Society of modern England. These are 
the patent objects, "laws and projects of laws," which 
lend stuff to my argument, and show that it is based 
not upon a mere deduction, but upon an observation 
of things. 

Two forms of this proof are evident: first, the laws 
and proposals which subject the Proletariat to Servile 
conditions ; next, the fact that the Capitalist, so far 
from being expropriated by modern " Socialist " ex- 
periments, is being confirmed in his power. 

I take these in their order, and I begin by asking 
in what statutes or proposals the Servile State first 
appeared among us. 

A false conception of our subject might lead one 
to find the origins of the Servile State in the restric- 
tions imposed upon certain forms of manufacture, 
and the corresponding duties laid upon the Capital- 
ist in the interest of his workmen. The Factory Laws, 
as they are in this country, would seem to offer upon 
this superficial and erroneous view a starting point. 
They do nothing of the kind ; and the view is super- 
ficial and erroneous because it neglects the funda- 
mentals of the case. What distinguishes the Servile 
State is not the interference of law with the action 


of any citizen even in connection with industrial 
matters. Such interference may or may not indicate 
the presence of a Servile status. It in no way indi- 
cates the presence of that status when it forbids a 
particular kind of human action to be undertaken by 
the citizen as a citizen. 

The legislator says, for instance, " You may pluck 
roses ; but as I notice that you sometimes scratch 
yourself, I will put you in prison unless you cut them 
with scissors at least 122 millimetres long, and I will 
appoint one thousand inspectors to go round the 
country seeing whether the law is observed. My 
brother-in-law shall be at the head of the Department- 
at ,2000 a year." 

We are all familiar with that type of legislation. 
Weareall familiar with the arguments for and against 
it in any particular case. We may regard it as oner- 
ous, futile, or beneficent, or in any other light, accord- 
ing to our various temperaments. But it does not fall 
within the category of servile legislation, because it 
establishes no distinction between two classes of citi- 
zens, marking off the one as legally distinct from the 
other by a criterion of manual labour or of income. 

This is even true of such regulations as those which 
compel a Cotton Mill, for instance, to have no less 
than such and such an amount of cubic space for each 
operative, and such and such protection for dangerous 
machinery. These laws do not concern themselves 



with the nature, the amount, or even the existence 
of a contract for service. The object, for example, of 
the law which compels one to fence off certain types 
of machinery is simply to protect human life, regard- 
less of whether the human being so protected is rich 
or poor, Capitalist or Proletarian. These laws may 
in effect work in our society so that the Capitalist is 
made responsible for the Proletarian, but he is not 
responsible qua Capitalist, nor is the Proletarian pro- 
tected qud Proletarian. 

In the same way the law may compel me, if I am 
a Riparian owner, to put up a fence of statutory 
strength wherever the water of my river is of more 
than a statutory depth. Now it cannot compel me 
to do this unless I am the owner of the land. In a 
sense, therefore, this might be called the recognition 
of my Status, because, by the nature of the case, only 
landowners can be affected by the law, and land- 
owners would be compelled by it to safeguard the 
lives of all, whether they were or were not owners of 

But the category so established would be purely 
accidental. The object and method of the law do 
not concern themselves with a distinction between 

A close observer might indeed discover certain 
points in the Factory laws, details and phrases, which 
did distinctly connote the existence of a Capitalist 


and of a Proletarian class. But we must take the 
statutes as a whole and the order in which they were 
produced, above all, the general motive and expres- 
sions governing each main statute, in order to judge 
whether such examples of interference give us an 
origin or not 

The verdict will be that they do not. Such legis- 
lation may be oppressive in any degree or necessary 
in any degree, but it does not establish status in the 
place of contract, and it is not, therefore, servile. 

Neither are those laws servile which in practice 
attach to the poor and not to the rich. Compulsory 
education is in legal theory required of every citizen 
for his children. The state of mind which goes with 
plutocracy exempts of course all above a certain 
standard of wealth from this law. But the law does 
apply to the universality of the commonwealth, 
and all families resident in Great Britain (not in 
Ireland) are subject to its provisions. 

These are not origins. A true origin to the legis- 
lation I approach comes later. The first example of 
servile legislation to be discovered upon the Statute 
Book is that which establishes the present form of 
Employer s Liability. 

I am far from saying that that law was passed, as 
modern laws are beginning to be passed, with the 
direct object of establishing a new status ; though it 
was passed with someconsciousnesson the part of the 



legislator that such a new status was in existence as 
a social fact. Its motive was merely humane, and the 
relief which it afforded seemed merely necessary at 
the time ; but it is an instructive example of the way 
in which a small neglect of strict doctrine and a slight 
toleration of anomaly admit great changes into the 

There had existed from all time in every com- 
munity, and there was founded upon common sense, 
the legal doctrine that if one citizen was so placed 
with regard to another by contract that he must in 
the fulfilment of that contract perform certain ser- 
vices, and if those services accidentally involved 
damages to a third party, not the actual perpetrator 
of the damage, but he who designed the particular 
operation leading to it was responsible. 

The point is subtle, but, as I say, fundamental. It 
involved no distinction of status between employer 
and employed. 

Citizen A offered citizen B a sack of wheat down 
if citizen B would plough for him a piece of land 
which might or might not produce more than a sack 
of wheat. 

Of course citizen A expected it would produce 
more, and was awaiting a surplus value, or he would 
not have made the contract with citizen B. But, at 
any rate, citizen B put his name to the agreement, 
and as a free man, capable of contracting, was cor- 


respondingly bound to fulfil it. 

In fulfilling this contract the ploughshare B is 
driving destroys a pipe conveying water by agree- 
ment through A's land to C. C suffers damage, and 
to recover the equivalent of that damage his action 
in justice and common sense can only be against A, 
for B was carrying out a plan and instruction of which 
A was the author. C is a third party who had noth- 
ing to do with such a contract and could not possibly 
have justice save by his chances of getting it from 
A, who was the true author of the unintentional loss 
inflicted, since he designed the course of work. 

But when the damage is not done to C at all, but 
to B, who is concerned with a work the risks of which 
are known and willingly undertaken, it is quite an- 
other matter. 

Citizen A contracts with citizen B that citizen B, 
in consideration of a sack of wheat, shall plough a bit 
of land. Certain known risks must attach to that 
operation. Citizen B, if he is a free man, undertakes 
those risks with his eyes open. For instance, he may 
sprain his wrist in turning the plough, or one of the 
horses may kick him while he is having his bread-and- 
cheese. If upon such an accident A is compelled to 
pay damages to B, a difference of status is at once re- 
cognised. B undertook to do work which, by all the 
theory of free contract, was, with its risks and its 
expense of energy, the equivalent in B's own eyes of 

1 60 


a sack of wheat ; yet a law is passed to say that B 
can have more than that sack of wheat if he is hurt. 

There is no converse right of A against B. If the 
employer suffers by suchan accident to the employee, 
he is not allowed to dock that sack of wheat, though 
it was regarded in the contract as the equivalent to 
a certain amount of labour to be performed which, 
as a fact, has not been performed. A has no action 
unless B has been culpably negligent or remiss. In 
other words, the mere fact that one man is working 
and the other not is the fundamental consideration 
on which the law is built, and the law says : " You 
are not a free man making a free contract with all 
its consequences. You are a worker, and therefore an 
inferior : you are an employee ; and that status gives 
you a special position which would not be recognised 
in the other party to the contract." 

The principle is pushed still further when an em- 
ployer is made liable for an accident happening to one 
of his employees at the hands of another employee. 

A gives a sack of wheat to Band D each if they will 
dig a well for him. All three parties are cognisant 
of the risks and accept them in the contract. B, hold- 
ing the rope on which D is lowered, lets it slip. If 
they were all three men of exactly equal status, obvi- 
ously D's action would be against B. But they are 
not of equal status in England to-day. B and D are 
employees^ and are therefore in a special and inferior 
161 II 


position before the law com pared with their employer 
A. D's action is, by this novel principle, no longer 
against B, who accidentally injured him by a per- 
sonal act, however involuntary, for which a free man 
would be responsible, but against A, who was inno- 
cent of the whole business. 

Now in all this it is quite clear that A has peculiar 
duties not because he is a citizen, but because he is 
something more : an employer ; and B and D have 
special claims on A, not because they are citizens,but 
becausetheyaresomethingless: viz. employees. They 
can claim protection from A, as inferiors of a superior 
in a State admitting such distinctions and patronage^ 

It will occur at once to the reader that in our ex- 
isting social state the employee will be very grateful 
for such legislation. One workman cannot recover 
from another simply because the other will have no 
goods out of which to pay damages. Let the burden, 
therefore, fall upon the rich man ! 

Excellent. But that is not the point. Toarguethus 
is to say that Servile legislation is necessary if we are 
tosolvetheproblemsraisedbyCapitalism. Itremains 
servile legislation none the less. It is legislation that 
would not exist in a society where property was well 
divided and where a citizen could normally pay 
damages for the harm he had himself caused.* 

* How true it is that the idea of status underlies this legis- 
lation can easily be tested by taking parallel cases,inoneof which 



This first trickle of the stream, however, though it 
is of considerable historical interest as a point of de- 
parture, is not of very definite moment to our subject 
compared with the great bulk of later proposals, some 
of which are already law, others upon the point of 
becoming law, and which definitely recognise the 
Servile State, the re-establishment of status in the 
place of contract, and the universal division of citi- 
zens into two categories of employers and employed. 

These last merit a very different consideration, 
for they will represent to history the conscious and 
designed entry of Servile Institutions into the old 
Christian State. They are not "origins," small indi- 
cations of comingchange which thehistorian will pain- 
fully discover as a curiosity. They are the admitted 
foundations of a new order, deliberately planned by 
a few, confusedly accepted by the many, as the basis 
upon which a novel and stable society shall arise to 
replace the unstable and passing phase of Capitalism. 

working men are concerned, in the other the professional class. 
If I contract to write for a publisher a complete History of the 
County of Rutland, and in the pursuit of that task, while exam- 
ining some object of historical interest, fall down a pit, I should 
not be able to recover against the publisher. But if I dress in 
mean clothes, and the same publisher, deceived, gives me a 
month's work at cleaning out his ornamental water and I am 
wounded in that occupation by a fierce fish, he will be mulcted 
to my advantage, and that roundly. 



They fall roughly into three categories : 

(1) Measures by which the insecurity of the prole- 
tariat shall be relieved through the action of the em- 
ploying class, or of the proletariat itself acting under 

(2) Measures by which the employer shall be com- 
pelled to give not less thanacertain minimum forany 
labour he may purchase, and 

(3) Measures which compel a man lacking the 
means of production to labour, though he may have 
made no contract to that effect. 

The last two, as will be seen in a moment, are com- 
plementary one of another. 

As to the first: Measures to palliate the insecurity 
of the proletariat. 

We have of this an example in actual law at this 
moment. And that law the Insurance Act (whose 
political source and motive I am not here discussing) 
follows in every particular the lines of a Servile State. 

(a) Its fundamental criterion is employment. In 
other words, I am compelled to enter a scheme provid- 
ing me against the mischances of illness and unem 
ployment not because I am a citizen, but only if I am: 

(1) Exchanging services for goods; and either 

(2) Obtaining less than a certain amount of goods 
for those services, or 

(3) A vulgar fellow working with his hands. 
Thelawcarefullyexcludes from itsprovisionsthose 



forms of labour to which the educated and therefore 
powerful classesaresubject,andfurtherexcludesfrom 
compulsion the mass of those who are forthemoment 
earning enough to make them a class to be reckoned 
with as economically free. I may be a writer of books 
who,shouldhe fall ill, will leave in thegreatestdistress 
the family which he supports. If the legislator were 
concerned for the morals of citizens, I should most 
undoubtedly come under this law, under the form of 
a compulsory insuranceadded to my income tax. But 
the legislator is not concerned with people of my sort. 
He is concerned with anewstatuswhichherecognises 
in the State, to wit, the proletariat. He envisages the 
proletariat not quiteaccuratelyasmen either poor, or, 
if they are not poor, at any rate vulgar people working 
with their hands, and he legislates accordingly. 

(b) Still an example of status tak- 
ing the place of contract, is the fact that this law puts 
the duty of controlling the proletariat and of seeing 
that the law is obeyed not upon the proletariat itself, 
but upon the Capitalist class. 

Now this point is of an importance that cannot be 

The future historian, whatever his interest in the 
first indications of that profound revolution through 
which we are so rapidly passing, will most certainly 
fix upon that one point as the cardinal landmark of 
our times. The legislator surveying the Capitalist 


State proposes as a remedy for certain of its evils the 
establishment of two categories in the State, compels 
the lower man to registration, to a tax, and the rest of 
it,and further compels the upper man to be the instru- 
ment in enforcing that registration and in collecting 
that tax. No one acquainted with the way in which 
any one of the great changes of the past has taken place, 
the substitution of tenure for the Roman proprietary 
right in land.orthesubstitution of the mediaeval peas- 
ant for the serf of the Dark Ages, can possibly mis- 
understand the significance of such a turning point 
in our history. 

Whether it will be completed or whether a reaction 
will destroy it is another matter. Its mere proposal 
is of the greatest possible moment in the inquiry we 
are here pursuing. 

Of the next two groups, the fixing of a Minimum 
Wage and the Compulsion to Labour (which, as I have 
said, and will shortly show, are complementary one 
to the other), neither has yet appeared in actual legis- 
lation, but both are planned, both thought out, both 
possessed of powerful advocates, and both upon the 
threshold of positive law. 

The fixing of a Minimum Wage, with a definite 
sum fixed by statute, has not yet entered our laws, 
but the first step towards such a consummation has 
been taken in theshapeof giving legal sanction tosome 

1 66 


hypothetical Minimum Wage which shall be arrived 
at after discussion within a particular trade. That 
trade is,of course, the mining industry. The law does 
not say : " No Capitalist shall pay a miner less than 
so many shillings for so many hours' work." But it 
does say: "Figures having been arrived at by local 
boards, any miner working within the area of each 
board can claim by force of law the minimum sum 
established by such boards." It is evident that from 
this step to the next, which shall define some sliding 
scale of remuneration for labour according to prices 
and the profits of capital, is an easy and natural trans- 
ition. It would give both parties what each immedi- 
ately requires: to capital a guarantee against disturb- 
ance ; to labour sufficiency and security. The whole 
thingisanexcellentobjectlessonin little of that gene- 
ral movement from free contract to status, and from 
the Capitalist to the Servile State, which is the tide 
of our time. 

The neglect of older principles as abstract and doc- 
trinaire; the immediate need of both parties immedi- 
ately satisfied ; the unforeseen but necessary conse- 
quence of satisfying such needs in such a fashion 
all these, which are apparent in the settlement the 
mining industry has begun, are the typical forces pro- 
ducing the Servile State. 

Consider in its largest aspect the nature of such a 


The Proletarian accepts a position in which he pro- 
duces for the Capitalist a certain total of economic 
values, and retains out of that total a portion only, 
leaving to the Capitalist all surplus value. The Capi- 
talist, on his side, is guaranteed in the secure and 
permanent expectation of that surplus value through 
all the perils of social envy; the Proletarian is guar- 
anteed in a sufficiency and a security for that suffi- 
ciency ; but by the very action of such a guarantee 
there is withdrawn from him the power to refuse his 
labour and thus to aim at putting himself in posses- 
sion of the means of production. 

Such schemes definitely divide citizens into two 
classes,the Capitalist and the Proletarian. They make 
it impossible for the second to combat the privileged 
position of the first. They introduce into the positive 
laws of the community a recognition of social facts 
which already divide Englishmen into two groups of 
economically more free and economically less free, 
and they stamp with the authority of the State a 
new constitution of society. Society is recognised as 
no longer consisting of free men bargaining freely for 
their labour or any other commodity in their posses- 
sion, but of two contrasting status, owners and non- 
owners. The first must not be allowed to leave the 
second without subsistence ; the second must not be 
allowed to obtain that grip upon the means of pro- 
duction which is the privilege of the first. It is true 



that this first experiment is small in degree and ten- 
tative in quality ; but to judge the movement as a 
general whole we must not only consider the expres- 
sion it has actually received so far in positive law, but 
the mood of our time. 

When this first experiment in a minimum wage 
was being debated in Parliament, what was the great 
issue of debate ? Upon what did those who were the 
most ardent reformers particularly insist ? Not that 
the miners should have an avenue open to them for 
obtaining possession of the mines ; not even that the 
State should have an avenue open to it for obtaining 
such possession ; but that the minimum wage should be 
fixed at a certain satisfactory level \ That, as our re- 
cent experience testifies for all of us, was the crux of 
thequarrel. Andthatsuch a point should be the crux, 
not the socialisation of the mines, nor the admission 
of the proletariat to the means of production, but 
only a sufficiency and a security of wage,is amply sig- 
nificant of the perhaps irresistible forces which are 
making in the direction for which I argue in this book. 

There was here no attempt of the Capitalist to im- 
pose Servile conditions norof the Proletarian to resist 
them. Both parties were agreed upon that funda- 
mental change. Thediscussion turnedupon the mini- 
mum limit of subsistence to be securely provided, a 
point which left aside, because it took for granted, 
the establishment of some minimum in any case. 


Next, let it be noted (for it is of moment to a later 
part of my argument) that experiments of this sort 
promise to extend piecemeal. There is no likelihood, 
judging by men's actions and speech, of some grand 
general scheme for the establishment of a minimum 
wage throughout the community. Such a scheme 
would, of course, be as truly an establishment of the 
Servile State as piecemeal schemes. But, as we shall 
see in a moment, the extension of the principle piece- 
meal has a considerable effect upon the forms which 
compulsion may take. 

The miners' refusal to work, with the exaggerated 
panic it caused, bred this first tentative appearancepf 
the minimum wage in our laws. Normally, capital 
prefers free labour with its margin of destitution ; for 
such an anarchy, ephemeral though it is of its nature, 
while it lasts provides cheap labour ; from the narrow- 
est point of view it provides in the still competitive 
areas of Capitalism a better chance for profits. 

But as one group of workmen after another, con- 
cerned with trades immediately necessary to the life 
of the nation, and therefore tolerating but little inter- 
ruption, learn the power which combination gives 
them, it is inevitable that the legislator (concentrated 
as he is upon momentary remedies for difficulties as 
they arise) should propose for one such trade after an- 
other the remedy of a minimum wage. 

There can be little doubt that, trade by trade, the 



principle will extend. For instance, the two and a 
half millions now guaranteed against unemployment 
are guaranteed against it for a certain weekly sum. 
That weekly sum must bear some relation to their es- 
timated earnings when they are in employment. 

It is a short step from the calculation of unemploy- 
ment benefit (its being fixed by statute at a certain 
level, and that level determined by something which 
is regarded as the just remuneration of labour in that 
trade); it is a short step, I say, from that to a statutory 
fixing of the sums paid during employment. 

The State says to the Serf: "I saw to it that you 
should have so much when you were unemployed. I 
find that in some rare cases my arrangement leads to 
your getting more when you are unemployed than 
when you are employed. I further find that in many 
cases, though you get more when you are employed, 
yetthe difference is not sufficient to tempt a lazy man 
to work, or to make him take any particular trouble 
to get work. I must see to this." 

The provision of a fixed schedule during unem- 
ployment thus inevitably leads to the examination, 
the defining, and at last the imposition of a minimum 
wage during employment; and every compulsory 
provision for unemployed benefits is the seed of a 
minimum wage. 

Of still greater effect is the mere presence of State 
regulation in such a matter. The fact that the State 


has begun to gather statistics of wages over these 
large areas of industry, and to do so not for a mere 
statistical object, but a practical one, and the fact 
that the State has begun to immix the action of 
positive law and constraint with the older system 
of free bargaining, mean that the whole weight of 
its influence is now in favour of regulation. It is no 
rash prophecy to assert that in the near future our 
industrial society will see a gradually extending area 
of industry in which from two sides the fixing of 
wages by statute shall appear. From the one side it 
willcome in the form of the State examining the con- 
ditions of labour in connection with its own schemes 
for establishing sufficiency and security by insurance. 
From the other side it will come through the reason- 
able proposals to make contracts between groups of 
labour and groups of capital enforceablein the Courts. 

So much, then, for the Principle of a Minimum 
Wage. It has already appeared in our laws. It is cer- 
tain to spread. But how does the presence of this in- 
troduction of a Minimum form part of the advance 
towards the Servile State? 

I have said that the principle of a minimum wage 
involves as its converse the principle of compulsory 
labour. Indeed, most of the importance which the 
principle of a minimum wage has for this inquiry 



lies in that converse necessity of compulsory labour 
which it involves. 

But as the connection between the two may not 
be clear at first sight, we must do more than take it 
for granted. We must establish it by process of reason. 

There are two distinct forms in which the whole 
policy of enforcing security and sufficiency by law 
for the proletariat produce a corresponding policy 
of compulsory labour. 

The first of these forms is the compulsion which 
the Courts will exerciseupon either of the parties con- 
cerned in the giving and in the receiving of the mini- 
mum wage. The second form is the necessity under 
which society will find itself, when once the principle 
of the minimum wage is conceded, coupled with the 
principle of sufficiency and security, to maintain those 
whom the minimum wage excludes from the area of 
normal employment. 

As to the first form : 

A Proletarian group has struck a bargain with a 
groupof Capitalists totheeffectthatitwill produce for 
that capital ten measures of value in a year, will be 
content to receive six measures of value for itself,and 
will leave four measures as surplus value for the Capi- 
talists. The bargain is ratified ; the Courts have the 
power to enforce it. If the Capitalists by some trick 
of fines or by bluntly breaking their word pay out 
in wages less than the six measures, the Courts must 


have some power of constraining them. In other 
words, there must be some sanction to the action of 
the law. There must be some power of punishment, 
and, through punishment,of compulsion. Conversely, 
if the men, having struck this bargain, go back upon 
their word ; if individuals among them or sections 
among them cease work with a newdemand for seven 
measures instead of six, the Courts must have the 
power of constrainingandof punishing them. Where 
the bargain is ephemeral or at any rate extended over 
only reasonable limits of time, it would be straining 
language perhaps to say that each individual case of 
constraint exercised against the workmen would be 
a case of compulsory labour. But extend the system 
over a long period of years, make it normal to in- 
dustry and accepted as a habit in men's daily con- 
ception of the way in which their lives should be con- 
ducted, and the method is necessarily transformed 
into a system of compulsory labour. In trades where 
wages fluctuate little this will obviously be the case. 
" You, the agricultural labourers of this district, have 
taken fifteen shillings a week for a very long time. 
It has worked perfectly well. There seems no reason 
why you should have more. Nay, you putyour hands 
to it through your officials in the year so and so that 
you regarded that sum as sufficient. Such and such 
of your members are now refusing to perform what 
this Court regards as a contract. They must return 



within the limits of that contract or suffer the con- 

Remember what power analogy exercises over 
men's minds, and how, when systems of the sort are 
common to many trades, they will tend to create a 
general point of view for all trades. Remember also 
how comparatively slight a threat is already sufficient 
to control men in our industrial society, the prole- 
tarian mass of which is accustomed to live from week 
to week under peril of discharge, and has grown 
readily amenable to the threat of any reduction in 
those wages upon which it can but just subsist. 

Nor are the Courts enforcing such contracts or 
quasi-contracts (as they will come to be regarded) 
the only inducement. 

A man has been compelled by law to put aside 
sums from his wages as insurance against unemploy- 
ment. But he is no longer the judge of how such 
sums shall be used. They are not in his possession ; 
they are not even in the hands of some society which 
he can really control. They are in the hands of a 
Government official. " Here is work offered you at 
twenty-five shillings a week. If you do not take it 
you certainly shall not have a right to the money 
you have been compelled to put aside. If you will 
take it the sum shall still stand to your credit, and 
when next in my judgment your unemployment is 
not due to your recalcitrance and refusal to labour, 


I will permit you to have some of your money : not 
otherwise." Dovetailing in with this machinery of 
compulsion is all that mass of registration and doc- 
keting which is accumulating through the use of 
Labour Exchanges. Not only will the Official have 
the power to enforce special contracts, or the power 
to coerce individual men to labour under the threat 
of a fine, but he will also have a series of dossiers by 
which therecord of each workman can be established. 
No man, once so registered and known, can escape; 
and, of the nature of the system, the numbers caught 
in the net must steadily increase until the whole mass 
of labour is mapped out and controlled. 

These are very powerful instruments of compul- 
sion indeed. They already exist. They are already a 
part of our laws. 

Lastly, there is the obvious bludgeon of" compul- 
sory arbitration": a bludgeon so obvious that it is 
revolting even to our proletariat. Indeed, I know of 
no civilised European state which has succumbed to 
so gross a suggestion. For it is a frank admission of 
servitudeatonestep.and for good and all.such as men 
of our culture are not yet prepared to swallow.* 

So much, then, for the first argument and the first 
form in which compulsory labour is seen to be a di- 
rect and necessary consequence of establishing a mi- 

* But it has twice been brought forward in due process as a 
Bill in Parliament ! 



nimum wage and of scheduling employment to a 

The second is equally clear. In the production of 
wheat the healthy and skilled man who can produce 
ten measures of wheat is compelled to work for six 
measures, and the Capitalist is compelled to remain 
content with four measures for his share. The law 
will punish him if he tries to get out of his legal obli- 
gation and to pay his workmen less than six meas- 
ures of wheat during the year. What of the man who 
is not sufficiently strong or skilled to produce even 
six measures ? Will the Capitalist be constrained to 
pay him more than the values he can produce ? Most 
certainly not. The whole structure of production as 
it was erected during the Capitalist phase of our in- 
dustry has been left intact by the new laws and cus- 
toms. Profit is still left a necessity. If it were de- 
stroyed, still more if a loss were imposed by law, that 
would be a contradiction of the whole spirit in which 
all these reforms are being undertaken. They are 
being undertaken with the object of establishing sta- 
bility where there is now instability, and of " recon- 
ciling," as the ironic phrase goes, " the interests of 
capital and labour." It would be impossible, without 
a general ruin, to compel capital to lose upon the man 
who is not worth even the minimum wage. How shall 
that element of insecurity and instability be elimin- 
177 12 


ated ? To support the man gratuitously because he 
cannot earn a minimum wage, when all the rest of the 
commonwealth is working for its guaranteed wages, 
is to put a premium upon incapacity and sloth. The 
man must bemadeto work. Hemust betaught, if pos- 
sible, to produce those economic values, which are re- 
garded as the minimum of sufficiency. He must be 
kept at that work even if he cannot produce the mini- 
mum, lest his presence as a free labourer should im- 
peril the whole scheme of the minimum wage, and 
introduce at the same time a continuous element of 
instability. Hence he is necessarily a subject for 
forced labour. We have not yet in thiscountry.estab- 
lished by force of law, the right to this form of com- 
pulsion, but it is an inevitable consequence of those 
other reforms which have just been reviewed. The 
"Labour Colony" (a prison so called because euphe- 
mism is necessary to every transition) will be erected 
to absorb this surplus, and that last form of compul- 
sion will crown the edifice of these reforms. They 
will then be complete so far as the subject classes are 
concerned, and even though this particular institu- 
tion of the " Labour Colony " (logically the last of 
all) precede in time other forms of compulsion, it will 
make the advent of those other forms of compulsion 
more certain, facile, and rapid. 

There remains one last remark to be made upon 



the concrete side of my subject. I have in this last 
section illustrated the tendency towards the Servile 
State from actual laws and actual projects with which 
all are to-day familiar in English industrial society, 
and I have shown how these are certainly establish- 
ing the proletariat in a novel,but to them satisfactory, 
Servile Status. 

It remains to point out in a very few lines the com- 
plementary truth that whatshould be the very essence 
of Collectivist Reform, to wit, the translation of the 
means of production from the hands of private owners 
to the hands of public officials, is nowhere being at- 
tempted. So far from its being attempted, all so- 
called " Socialistic " experiments in municipalisation 
and nationalisation aremerelyincreasingthedepend- 
ence of the community upon the Capitalist class. To 
prove this, we need only observe that every single 
one of these experiments is effected by a loan. 

Now what is meant in economic reality by these 
municipal loans and national loans raised for the pur- 
pose of purchasing certain small sections of the means 
of production ? 

Certain Capitalists own a number of rails, cars, etc. 
They put to work upon these certain Proletarians,and 
the result is a certain total of economic values. Let 
the surplus values obtainable by the Capitalists after 
the subsistence of the proletarians is provided for 
amount to 1 0,000 a year. We all know how a system 


of this sort is "Municipalised. A "loan "is raised. It 
bears "interest." It is saddled with a "sinking fund." 

Now this loan is not really made in money, though 
the terms of it are in money. It is, at the end of a 
long string of exchanges, nothing more nor less than 
the loan of the cars, the rails, etc., by the Capitalists 
to the Municipality. And the Capitalists require, 
before they will strike the bargain, a guarantee that 
the whole of their old profit shall be paid to them, to- 
gether with a further yearly sum, which after a certain 
number of years shall represent the original value of 
the concern when they handed it over. These last 
additional sums are called the " sinking fund " ; the, 
continued payment of the old surplus values is called 
the " interest." 

In theory certain small sections of the means of 
production might be acquired in this way. That par- 
ticular section would have been " socialised." The 
" Sinking Fund " (that is, the paying of the Capital- 
ists for their plant by instalments) might be met out 
of the general taxation imposed on the community, 
considering how large that is compared with any one 
experiment of the kind. The "interest" may by good 
management be met out of the true profits of the 
tramways. At the end of a certain number of years 
the community will be in possession of the tramways, 
will no longer be exploited in this particular by Capi- 
talism, will have bought out Capitalism from the 

1 80 


general taxes, and, in so far as the purchase money 
paid has been consumed and not saved or invested 
by the Capitalists, a small measure of "socialisation" 
will have been achieved. 

As a fact things are never so favourable. 

In practice three conditions militate against even 
these tiny experiments in expropriation: the fact that 
the implements are always sold at much more than 
their true value ; the fact that the purchase includes 
non-productive things ; and the fact that the rate of 
borrowing is much faster than the rate of repayment. 
These three adverse conditions lead in practice to 
nothing but the riveting of Capitalism more securely 
round the body of the State. 

For what is it that is paid for when a tramway, 
for instance, is taken over ? Is it the true capital 
alone, the actual plant, which is paid for, even at an 
exaggerated price? Far from it! Over and above 
the rails and the cars, there are all the commissions 
that have been made, all the champagne luncheons, 
all the lawyers' fees, all the compensations to this 
man and to that man, all the bribes. Nor does this 
exhaust the argument. Tramways represent a pro- 
ductive investment. What about pleasure gardens, 
wash-houses, baths, libraries, monuments, and the 
rest ? The greater part of these things are the pro- 
duct of " loans." When you put up a public institu- 
tion you borrow the bricks and the mortar and the 


iron and the wood and the tiles from Capitalists, and 
you pledge yourself to pay interest, and to produce a 
sinking fund precisely as though a town hall or a bath 
were a piece of reproductive machinery. 

To this must be added the fact that a considerable 
proportion of the purchases are failures : purchases 
of things just before they are driven out by some new 
invention ; while on the top of the whole business 
you have the fact that the borrowing goes on at a far 
greater rate than the repayment. 

In a word, all these experiments up and down 
Europeduring our generation, municipal and nation- 
al, have resulted in an indebtedness to capital in-" 
creasing rather more than twice, but not three times, 
as fast as the rate of repayment. The interest which 
capital demands with a complete indifference as to 
whether the loan is productive or non-productive 
amounts to rather more than I \ per cent, excess over 
the produce of the various experiments, even though 
we countin the most lucrative and successful of these, 
such as the state railways of many countries, and 
the thoroughly successful municipal enterprises of 
many modern towns. 

Capitalism has seen to itthat itshallbea winner and 
not a loser by this form of sham Socialism, as by every 
other. And the same forces which in practice forbid 
confiscation see to it that the attempt to mask con- 
fiscation by purchase shall not only fail, but shall 



turn against those who have not had the courage to 
make a frontal attack upon privilege. 

With these concrete examples showing how Col- 
lectivism, in attempting its practice, does but confirm 
the Capitalist position, and showinghowour laws have 
already begun to impose a Servile Status upon the Pro- 
letariat, I end the argumentative thesis of this book. 

I believe I have proved my case. 

The future of industrial society, and in particular 
of English society, left to its own direction, is a future 
in which subsistence and security shall be guaranteed 
for the Proletariat, but shall be guaranteed at the ex- 
pense of the old political freedom and by the estab- 
lishment of that Proletariat in a status really, though 
not nominally, servile. At the same time, the Own- 
ers will be guaranteed in their profits, the whole 
machinery of production in the smoothness of its 
working, and that stability which has been lost under 
the Capitalist phase of society will be found once 

The internal strains which have threatened society 
during its Capitalist phase will be relaxed and elimi- 
nated, and the community will settle down upon that 
Servile basis which was its foundation before the 
advent of the Christian faith, from which that faith 
slowly weaned it, and to which in the decay of that 
faith it naturally returns. 



social movement of the past with accuracy and in 
detail if one can spare to the task the time necessary 
for research and further bring to it a certain power of 
co-ordination by which a great mass of detail can be 
integrated and made one whole. 

Such a task is rarely accomplished, but it does not 
exceed the powers of history. 

With regard to the future it is otherwise. No one 
can say even in its largest aspect or upon its chief 
structural line what that future will be. He can only 
present the main tendencies of his time: he can only 
determinetheequationof the curve and presume that 
thatequation will apply more or less to its next devel- 

So far as I can judge, those societies which broke 
with thecontinuity of Christian civilisation in the six- 
teenth century which means, roughly, North Ger- 
many and Great Britain tend at present to the re- 
establishment of a Servile Status. It will be diversi- 
fied by local accident, modified by local character, 
hidden under many forms. But it will come. 

That the mere Capitalist anarchy cannot endure 
is patent to all men. That only a very few possible 
solutions to it exist should be equally patent to all. 
For my part, as I have said in these pages, I do not 
believe there are more than two : a reaction towards 
well-divided property, or the re-establishment of ser- 


vitude. I cannot believe that theoretical Collectiv- 
ism, now so plainly failing, will ever inform a real and 
living society. 

But my conviction that the re-establishment of the 
Servile Status in industrial society is actually upon 
us does not lead me to any meagre and mechanical 
prophecy of what the future of Europe shall be. The 
force of which I have been speaking is not the only 
force in the field. There is a complex knot of forces 
underlyingany nation once Christian; a smouldering 
of the old fires. 

Moreover, one can point to European societies 
which will most certainly reject any such solution' of 
our Capitalist problem, just as the same societies have 
either rejected,or lived suspicious of, Capitalism itself, 
and have rejected or lived suspicious of that industrial 
organisation which till lately identified itself with 
" progress " and national well-being. 

These societies are in the main the same as those 
which, in that great storm of the sixteenth century, 
the capital episode in the story of Christendom 
held fast to tradition and saved the continuity of 
morals. Chief among them should be noted to-day 
the French and the Irish. 

I would record it as an impression and no more 
that the Servile State, strong as the tide is making 
for it in Prussia and in England to-day,will be modified, 
checked, perhaps defeated in war, certainly halted 



in its attempt to establish itself completely, by the 
strong reaction which these freer societies upon its 
flank will perpetually exercise. 

Ireland has decided for a free peasantry, and our 
generation has seen the solid foundation of that insti- 
tution laid. In France the many experiments which 
elsewhere have successfully introduced the Servile 
State have been contemptuously rejectedbythepopu- 
lace,and (most significant!) a recent attempt to regis- 
ter and to "insure" the artisans as a separate category 
of citizens has broken down in the face of an universal 
and a virile contempt. 

That this second factor in the development of the 
future, the presence of free societies, will destroy the 
tendency to the Servile State elsewhere I do not 
affirm, but I believe that it will modify that tendency, 
certainly by example and perhaps by direct attack. 
And as I am upon the whole hopeful that the Faith 
will recover its intimateandguidingplace in the heart 
of Europe, so I believe that this sinking back into our 
original Paganism (for the tendency to the Servile 
State is nothing less) will in due time be halted and 

Videat Deus. 


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HC 55 .65 1912 SMC 

Belloc. Hilaire 
The servile state